International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Prosecution Psychologist Says Ongwen Suffered Trauma While in the LRA But Did Not Have a Mental Disorder

A prosecution psychologist criticized how two defense mental health experts concluded Dominic Ongwen had a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, saying he found their reports contradictory.

Roland Weierstall told the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he testified on Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, there was no doubt that Ongwen suffered trauma between 2002 and 2005. These years cover the period during which the ICC prosecution alleges Ongwen to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Weierstall told the court Ongwen suffered trauma while he was a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but that did not automatically mean he had a mental disorder.

He also said he doubted whether Ongwen had attempted to commit suicide eight times while … Continue Reading

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Psychiatrist Says Ongwen’s ‘Resilience’ Should be Taken into Account When ICC Considers Judgement

A psychiatrist called by the prosecution told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the fact Dominic Ongwen was abducted as a child and survived for decades in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) should be taken into account when judges determine his innocence or guilt.

Catherine Abbo, however, told the court that Ongwen did not have a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, which is the period that covers the charges against him. Abbo testified between March 26 and March 28.

Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda. As a commander of the LRA, Ongwen is alleged to have been involved in attacks on four camps for internally displaced people, and … Continue Reading

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Thrice Abducted: Perspectives from a Former LRA Signaler who Served with Ongwen

He was abducted three times and spent over 10 years in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), where he served as a force signaler. After he finally escaped, he was granted amnesty by the Ugandan government. This article explores the perspectives of this former long-serving LRA fighter regarding the trial of Dominic Ongwen, whom he met and served with while in captivity. In this article, we shall refer to him as “Omara” to protect his identity. Omara expressed his opinion about the trial during an interview conducted with him in northern Uganda in March 2018.

Ongwen, a former LRA commander is currently on trial at International Criminal Court (ICC), where he is charged with over 70 counts of war crimes and crimes … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Most Homes Were Burned During Lukodi Attack

A survivor of a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attack on the Lukodi camp for internally displaced (IDP) people 13 years ago told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that most homes in the camp were burned during the attack.

Witness P-187, who testified on Thursday and Friday, told the court the LRA abducted her during the attack and made her carry food. She said as they trekked away from Lukodi, she saw LRA fighters throw babies and children into the bush because they were crying.

The witness was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, who has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Lukodi attack. In total, … Continue Reading

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Expert Says Ongwen Did Not Have a Mental Illness While in the LRA

A forensic psychiatrist told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that if Dominic Ongwen had a mental illness while he was in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) it would have been difficult for him to mask its symptoms from the people around him.

Gillian Clare Mezey told the court on Tuesday that based on material she reviewed her conclusion was Ongwen did not have a mental illness during the time he was a LRA commander between 2002 and 2005.

Ongwen, who disrupted Monday’s afternoon session and was removed from the court, was present in court on Tuesday. He did not make a statement as Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt had suggested the previous day, but Ongwen sat throughout Tuesday’s hearing without any further incident.

Mezey … Continue Reading

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Judges Remove Ongwen from Court for Disrupting Hearing

The chamber adjudicating the trial of Dominic Ongwen ordered he be removed from court after he disrupted proceedings on Monday, March 19. His trial was just resuming after a break of almost three weeks.

The disruption happened during the afternoon session as Gillian Clare Mezey gave her opinion of Ongwen’s mental state based on extracts of testimony previous prosecution witnesses had given about their interaction with Ongwen when he was a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Mezey had given her views on seven pages of extracts of witness testimony in open court when, as she began to comment on the next extract, Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, asked that her comments be in private session because the extract was … Continue Reading

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Judges Allow Victims to Call Seven Witnesses in Ongwen Trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said seven witnesses will testify in the next phase of the trial of Dominic Ongwen, which is tentatively set to start on April 30.

During the next phase of trial victims’ lawyers will be able to present evidence highlighting the harm victims have suffered during the crimes Ongwen is alleged to have had a role in. Ongwen, who is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is alleged to have committed the crimes between July 2002 and December 2005 while he was a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Trial Chamber IX said in its March 6 decision it will allow four expert witnesses … Continue Reading

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How the ICC Field Office in Uganda is Using SMS to Update Communities about the Ongwen Trial

In northern Uganda, many people have expressed interest in following the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen. However, most people are unable to do so on a regular basis due to lack of convenient channels. For this reason, the International Criminal Court (ICC) field office in Uganda began disseminating information through short message services (SMS) or text messages. This article explores perspectives of select community members in Lukodi village regarding the effectiveness of the initiative.

Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been on trial since December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps of … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Ongwen Feared Escaping the LRA Because of ICC Arrest Warrant

A former captain of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he confided in Dominic Ongwen nine years ago about his plans to escape the rebel group, hoping Ongwen would join him.

Witness P-209 told the court Ongwen listened to his proposal but told him that he feared the ICC arrest warrant issued against him. Witness P-209 said he did not fear Ongwen would reveal his plans because he knew at the time Ongwen was not on good terms with LRA leader Joseph Kony, just like himself. Both of them knew they could be killed at any time.

The witness testified in the trial of Ongwen between Tuesday, February 27, and Wednesday, February 28. Ongwen, a former … Continue Reading

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ICC Trust Fund for Victims’ Delegation Visits Gulu; Pledges More Support for Rehabilitation Programs

Last month, the government of Ireland in partnership with the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) at the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) led a delegation of States Parties representatives to northern Uganda and interacted with conflict survivors and conflict affected communities. This is significant because as Dominic Ongwen’s trial continues at the ICC, a key factor that continues to generate debate is the mental, physical, and psychosocial rehabilitation of conflict survivors.

According to a press release [pdf] by the TFV, the visit was initiated by the government of Ireland and was aimed at monitoring and “reviewing implementation of TFV projects in northern Uganda, meeting with victims and survivors and affected communities who have been receiving support from the TFV.” The visit was … Continue Reading

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