International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Why Reparations Will Be Central in Determining the Success of Ongwen’s Trial

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since January 2015 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ongwen’s trial, due to commence on December 6, 2016, presents the best opportunity yet for victims of conflict in northern Uganda to receive reparations but only in the event that Ongwen is found guilty.

As ICC Outreach Coordinator for Kenya and Uganda Maria Mabinty Kamara explained in a conversation, ”Reparations can be ordered by the court only after the trial is concluded and if the accused is found guilty. In such eventuality, the court may issue an order for reparations to victims of the crimes and to … Continue Reading

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A Reversal of Roles: How the Government and Victims in Northern Uganda Have Switched Their Positions on the ICC

Opening statements in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda, are scheduled to begin December 6, 2016. Ongwen’s trial, however, comes after several years of an uphill battle by the ICC to win support in Uganda. Having been asked to investigate the LRA for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004, the ICC is today openly criticized by the very government that invited it in the first place. Oppositely, the ICC now has significant support from conflict-affected communities who initially opposed it.

The ICC’s involvement in Uganda started in 2004 with a referral by the … Continue Reading

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The Importance of Comprehensive Outreach in the Case of Ongwen and the Role of Civil Society Organizations

On December 6, 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will commence the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the villages of Lukodi, Odek, Abok, and Pajule, in northern Uganda. A key factor that will be significant in ensuring awareness and understanding by victims and the general public in Uganda will be community outreach.

Since the court opened its investigation in 2004, the ICC field office in Uganda has been involved in conducting outreach in the northern part of the country to educate the population about the ICC and how it operates. After the capture of Ongwen in 2015, the ICC field office intensified their … Continue Reading

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To Participate or Not? Getting Victim Participation Right in the Kwoyelo Case

Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is currently on trial before the International Crimes Division (ICD) in Uganda. He is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during a two decades-long war that ravaged northern Uganda. In preparation for the main trial, the ICD has so far held three pre-trial hearings in April, August, and September 2016 respectively.

On September 23, 2016, the ICD issued a landmark ruling on victim participation, allowing victims to participate in the proceedings akin to their right of participation before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Due to its recently adopted Rules of Procedure, victims in proceedings before the ICD are entitled to a wider range of rights than in criminal proceedings … Continue Reading

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Why the ICC Should Reconsider its Decision on In Situ Proceedings in Uganda

On December 6, 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will start the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda. One topic that has repeatedly generated discussion in the case of Ongwen is the possibility of the ICC holding in situ hearings in Uganda.

At a status conference held on May 23, 2016 in The Hague, the prosecution, the defense, and the victims’ representatives agreed that the trial chamber should consider holding in situ proceedings. The parties suggested holding the opening of the trial in Uganda, and preferably in Gulu. In addition, the prosecution and one of the victims’ representatives suggested that the … Continue Reading

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Kwoyelo Trial Postponed (Again) in Ugandan Court: Causes and Ramifications

This post was written by Lino Owor Ogora, Director, Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives, an NGO based in Gulu District, Uganda, that works with children, youth, women, and communities to promote justice, development, and economic recovery in Northern Uganda. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo is a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander who is currently facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda. Although authorities arrested Kwoyelo in 2008, the start of his trial has been postponed numerous times. In April 2016, a pre-trial hearing was held in Kampala, and the main trial … Continue Reading

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Support for ICC Trial of Ongwen is Shown at Commemoration of the Lukodi Massacre

This post was written by Lino Owor Ogora, Director, Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives, an NGO based in Gulu District, Uganda, that works with children, youth, women, and communities to promote justice, development, and economic recovery in Northern Uganda. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

On May 19, residents of Lukodi village in northern Uganda commemorated the 12th anniversary of the Lukodi Massacre. The prayers are held annually to remember the victims who lost their lives almost 12 years ago when Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels raided Lukodi village. This attack resulted in the indiscriminate killing of several civilians, destruction of property, and the abduction of children. During the memorial, … Continue Reading

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The Kwoyelo Case at the ICD: The Realities of Complementarity in Practice

The term “complementarity” often features in conversations around international justice. The preamble to the Rome Statute emphasizes the complementary role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to national criminal jurisdictions. Article 17 anchors ICC interventions on among others, the “inability” or “unwillingness” of a State to investigate and prosecute.

Uganda has been under an ICC investigation since July 2004 for alleged crimes related to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda. However, since then it has also moved forward in establishing an International Crimes Division (ICD) within the High Court of Uganda, which is set to try its first case this summer. The trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former LRA mid-level commander charged with crimes under Uganda’s Geneva Conventions Act … Continue Reading

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Views on the Trial of Thomas Kwoyelo and the Need for Community Outreach

This post was written by Lino Owor Ogora, Director, Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives, an NGO based in Gulu District, Uganda, that works with children, youth, women, and communities to promote justice, development, and economic recovery in Northern Uganda. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo is a former LRA commander who is currently facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda. Although authorities arrested Kwoyelo in 2008, his trial is only scheduled to begin this May. This commentary focuses on views of community members in anticipation of his upcoming trial.

Background

Following his capture by the … Continue Reading

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A View from Lukodi in the Aftermath of the Ongwen Confirmation of Charges Decision

During the January 2016 International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmation of charges proceedings against Dominic Ongwen, a live screening of the hearing was broadcast in Lukodi, Northern Uganda.  Ongwen, a former rebel commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges allegedly committed against four camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Northern Uganda. Two months after those proceedings, pre-trial chamber judges confirmed all charges brought against the accused.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in and independently observe the ICC’s first outreach session in Lukodi since the confirmation of charges decision. While the outreach sessions I have attended in the past, when all arrest warrants were still outstanding, only involved … Continue Reading

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