International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Ugandan Civil Society Questions an ICC Prosecution Delegation on the Ongwen Trial

As the trial of Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) went into summer recess, representatives of the Court’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) responded to questions put by civil society in northern Uganda.

On August 1, 2017, a delegation from the OTP met with over 40 representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Gulu, northern Uganda. The objective was to provide updates on developments since the commencement of the Ongwen trial on December 6, 2016 and respond to questions from the community. The meeting was public and this article reflects on the questions raised by the CSO representatives and how the OTP officials responded to them.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly … Continue Reading

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How the Ongwen Trial Is Influencing Discussions on Accountability in Northern Uganda

In northern Uganda, intense debate surrounds the question of whether the government of Uganda or the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) bears greater responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the two-decade conflict. The trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the LRA, currently underway at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has become a focal point for discussions on accountability. This article reflects some of the views heard in those discussions, based on questions put to civil society organization (CSO) representatives and community members.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 … Continue Reading

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International Justice Day in Uganda Focuses on Ongwen’s Trial as Community Members Quiz ICC Officials at a Town Hall Meeting

July 17 is globally recognized as the “World Day for International Justice,” also referred to as the “Day of International Criminal Justice” or “International Justice Day.” The day is commemorated around the world as part of an effort to recognize the emerging system of international criminal justice and to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since the ICC intervened in the Ugandan situation 13 years ago, International Justice Day in Uganda has revolved around activities of the court.  With the trial of Dominic Ongwen currently ongoing before the ICC, it is not surprising that this year’s commemoration focused the Ongwen case.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes … Continue Reading

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Victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Crimes Need Special Reparations

As the trial of Dominic Ongwen continues before the International Criminal Court (ICC), significant questions remain about how reparations for victims of sexual and gender based (SGBV) crimes will be approached.

Ongwen was initially charged with seven war crimes and crimes against humanity, none of which were SGBV related, but after surrendering to rebels in the Central African Republic in 2015, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the introduction of 63 additional charges. Among the additional charges, Ongwen is facing 19 counts of SGBV crimes, including rape and forced marriage. This article focuses on reparations for survivors of LRA-perpetrated SGBV crimes.

The LRA is known to have abducted over 30,000 children below the age of 18 from 1988 to 2004, including young girls, … Continue Reading

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Formerly Abducted Women Say Ongwen’s Trial is Not Justified

Since the start of Dominic Ongwen’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year, different stakeholders have expressed their opinions on various issues regarding the case. Few of these opinions, however, have come from formerly abducted women and girls, despite the fact that they constitute a unique category of victims based on their experiences during the conflict. This article explores opinions from seven women who say they were abducted as girls between 1992 and 2004. All of the women openly said that Ongwen should be forgiven despite their own experiences as victims of sexual and gender based violence.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is believed to have abducted over 30,000 children (under 18) from 1988 to 2004, including girls, who … Continue Reading

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Why Victims ‘Feel Abandoned’ by the Ugandan Government

As the trial of Dominic Ongwen continues at the International Criminal Court (ICC), questions on how victims and conflict-affected communities stand to benefit from the whole process continues to generate discussion. A key issue often raised by victims is the lack of support from the Ugandan government to victims of the conflict, which pitted the government itself against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

This is an issue that has left many feeling that the government is leaving the ICC and other stakeholders to shoulder the entire burden. With the ICC promising to effect reparations for victims in the event of a conviction, it can be argued that Ongwen’s trial has reopened the debate on reparations and assistance for victims in northern … Continue Reading

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Low Turnout at the Lukodi Memorial Prayers as Victims Express Dissatisfaction with the Slow Pace of Ongwen’s Trial

Lukodi village is located approximately 17 kilometers from Gulu town. It was the scene of a horrendous massacre by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in May 2004, leading to the death of over 69 civilians. Dominic Ongwen is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in part due to what happened here.

Ongwen’s trial before the ICC started on December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004 in the camps of Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes, including the crime … Continue Reading

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Just or Unjust? Mixed Reactions on Whether Ongwen Should be on Trial

As the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen continues before the International Criminal Court (ICC), people in northern Uganda are still divided on whether or not his trial is justified. In response to the question of whether they felt Ongwen’s trial was fair or not, Civil Society Organization (CSO) representatives responded in different ways, citing different reasons for their answers.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004 in the camps of Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes, including the … Continue Reading

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To Punish or to Pardon? Perspectives on Accountability and Forgiveness in the Case of Dominic Ongwen

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC). He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former internally displaced persons (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Odek, Abok, and Pajule. His trial, which started on December 6, 2016, is progressing steadily, with the prosecution currently making submissions.

As the trial continues, many people continue to remain divided on whether Ongwen should stand trial and be punished on the one hand, or whether he should be forgiven and acquitted on the other hand. This article presents perspectives from both sides.

To Pardon

The ICC has been involved in Uganda since 2004 when a referral was … Continue Reading

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Combative Witness Raises Questions about Witness Preparation at the ICC

Earlier this month a prosecution witness testifying in the trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) made headlines when he was cautioned by the judges for his behavior on the witness stand. As a member of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), Witness P-003 intercepted radio communications between members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the conflict in northern Uganda, and he was called to The Hague testify about those communications.

However, upon cross-examination Ongwen’s lead defense lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, in an effort to impugn the witness’s credibility, presented a letter in court that alleged the witness acted inappropriately during intercept operations and drew a gun on an intelligence officer working from the same compound. The … Continue Reading

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