International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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The Thomas Kwoyelo Case at the ICD: Issues of Victim Participation

Victim participation is becoming a hallmark of transnational justice mechanisms and international criminal justice practices. While the focus should be on victims because they experience the horrors of atrocities that are committed, which these mechanisms seek to redress, they tend to have been marginalized in the past. If their privileges are recognized and met, victims can double as witnesses, can provide very useful information, and can contribute to restorative justice. This, however, is not practiced in common law jurisdictions where the focus is on retribution.

In 2008, Uganda established the International Crimes Division (ICD), which was born of the Juba Peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance (LRA) rebels who operated in northern Uganda and neighboring regions beyond the borders. The court … Continue Reading

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Calls for Reparations and a Speedy Trial Prevail as ICC President Visits Northern Uganda

 “The coming of the ICC President brings hope to the people of Lukodi. The court should also fasten the justice process because people have waited for too long.” – Gibson Okullu, community leader from Lukodi

From February 23 to March 1, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, visited Uganda to see first-hand the activities of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims (TFV or Trust Fund) that support victims under its assistance mandate. President Fernández also used the mission as an opportunity to generate awareness and support for the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The above quote was part of the remarks made by Gibson Okullu, the local council chairperson for Lukodi, as he welcomed President Fernández to the … Continue Reading

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Why Community Members in Barlonyo ‘Feel Left Out’ of the Ongwen Trial

Located 26 kilometers north of Lira town is the tranquil village of Barlonyo. It is a quiet trading center that lies inconspicuously next to the River Moroto, in Lira district, in the Lango sub-region of Uganda. Behind its quiet and tranquil facade, Barlonyo harbors a dark past brought about by a massacre perpetrated by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in February 2004. For this reason, Barlonyo is also home to a monument bearing the remains of 121 LRA victims.

Late in the afternoon on February 21, 2004, LRA rebels, allegedly under the leadership of Okot Odhiambo, attacked the Barlonyo internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp, subdued the small contingent of Ugandan government soldiers based there, and engaged in a burning … Continue Reading

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Stocktaking: Reactions to Ongwen’s Trial Thus Far

It has been over two months since the trial of Dominic Ongwen started at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. Once a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ongwen 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, Pajule, and Abok in northern Uganda. His trial began on December 6, 2016, with opening statements from the ICC prosecutor and lawyers representing victims in the case. On January 16, the main phase of the trial commenced with the prosecution presenting its first witness. On February 3, Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt announced that the court would take a three weeks’ break … Continue Reading

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