International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Challenges of Legal Representation in the Case of Dominic Onwgen

Dominic Onwgen is a former top commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) whose trial is due to commence on December 6, 2016 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Ongwen is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the villages of Lukodi, Odek, Pajule, and Abok, all located in Northern Uganda.

As his trial date looms closer, however, complications have arisen around the issue of legal representation for victims. At the moment, 2,036 victims have been approved for participation in the trial, with more still being registered by the ICC field office in Uganda. The problem stems from the existence of two separate teams of lawyers representing them, a factor that has turned out … Continue Reading

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ICC Convicts Al Faqi of Single War Crime, Sentences Him to Nine Years in Prison

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has convicted former Malian Islamic leader Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi of a single war crime of destroying historic and religious buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu four years ago.

In a unanimous judgement made on Tuesday, Trial Chamber VIII sentenced Al Faqi to nine years in prison. Presiding Judge Raul C. Pangalangan said the chamber found that the guilty plea Al Faqi made in August this year was supported by the facts.

By sentencing Al Faqi to nine years imprisonment, the chamber was upholding the sentence range the prosecution, Al Faqi, and his lawyers had agreed to in a plea deal they all signed on February 25 this year. A redacted version of … Continue Reading

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Thousands of Victims in Uganda Express Willingness to Participate in the Ongwen Case

On December 6, 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will commence the trial of Dominic Onwgen, a former top commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ongwen is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2004 when the LRA was engaged in an insurgency against the government of Uganda. He is alleged to have committed the crimes in the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Odek, Pajule-Lapul, and Abok, all located in Northern Uganda.

Victims of crimes under investigation by the ICC can apply to participate in proceedings through a lawyer, apply for reparations, seek assistance, and submit communications to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). Such participation is … Continue Reading

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Victims Ask ICC to Severely Punish Islamic Leader; Judgement Set for September 27

The victims in the trial of a former Malian Islamic leader at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have declined to accept his guilty plea or forgive him and instead they have asked judges to punish him severely.

Mayombo Kassongo told Trial Chamber VIII on Wednesday that the victims had suffered a deep loss when mausoleums of saints revered in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu were attacked and destroyed in mid-2012. Kassongo represents the victims in the trial of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi.

Al Faqi is charged with a single war crime of completely or partially destroying … Continue Reading

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Timbuktu Residents Protested the Destruction of Historic Buildings, Witness Says

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) residents of the northern Mali city of Timbuktu protested when Islamic extremists brought down centuries-old mausoleums in 2012.

Witness P-431 told the court on Tuesday that the people of Timbuktu considered the mausoleums central to their identity, and they were proud of the listing of some of them on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“All people are proud of Timbuktu and its renown, as well as the role the city played in the history of Mali,” said Witness P-431.

When the mausoleums were attacked, Timbuktu residents “protested in the sense that it [the mausoleums] is their property,” said Witness P-431, who spoke in French with his testimony … Continue Reading

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Al Faqi Pleads Guilty to War Crime Charge, Apologizes to Malians

Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he is guilty of the war crime of completely or partially destroying historic buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu in 2012.

Al Faqi made this declaration on Monday, August 22, the opening day of his trial before Trial Chamber VIII. This is the first time an accused person has made a guilty plea before the ICC.

After pleading guilty to the single count of a war crime he is charged with, Al Faqi apologized to the inhabitants of Timbuktu and the citizens of Mali in general for attacking Mali’s cultural heritage. He also asked for their forgiveness.

“I’m really sorry, and I am really remorseful,” Al Faqi said in an … Continue Reading

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Trial of Malian Islamic Leader Opens on Monday

The trial of Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi of Mali will bring with it several firsts for the International Criminal Court (ICC) when it opens next week.

Al Faqi is the first leader of a militant Islamic group to be tried at the ICC. His case is also the first time before the ICC that, as a main charge, someone is charged with the war crime of destroying cultural buildings.

The other first is that Al Faqi has indicated he intends to plead guilty, the first time an accused person before the ICC has given such an indication. Al Faqi stated his wish to plead guilty during the confirmation of charges hearing held on March 1.

Al Faqi, who was handed over to the ICC … Continue Reading

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Entretien avec l’avocat des victimes de la CPI Paolina Massidda sur les enjeux et les succès de la participation des victimes ainsi que sur les retards dans les réparations

Paolina Massidda est le conseil principal du Bureau du conseil public pour les victimes (OPCV) à la Cour pénale internationale (CPI). Elle s’est entretenue avec International Justice Monitor de la manière dont la participation et la représentation des victimes ont été élaborées à la Cour depuis son premier procès qui s’est ouvert il y a 7 ans ainsi que des difficultés de la représentation de centaines de victimes lors d’un seul procès. Me Massida a également expliqué pourquoi la Cour avait pris tant de temps pour avoir une idée claire des indemnisations qui pouvaient être données aux victimes dans des procès qui avaient été conclus et ce qu’il advenait des victimes dans des affaires telles que celle du Kenya qui étaient closes.

Wairagala … Continue Reading

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Q&A With ICC Victims’ Lawyer Paolina Massidda on Challenges and Successes of Victims’ Participation and Delays in Making Reparations

Paolina Massidda is the Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) at the International Criminal Court (ICC). She spoke to the International Justice Monitor about how victims’ participation and representation has been shaped at the court since its first trial opened seven years ago and the challenges of representing thousands of victims in a single trial. Massidda also discussed why it has taken so long for the court to have clarity on the reparations that could be made to victims in trials that have been concluded and what happens to victims in cases, such as in the Kenyan situation, that have been terminated. 

Wairagala Wakabi (WW): The first case was concluded about four years ago in terms of … Continue Reading

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Entretien avec le procureur Fatou Bensouda sur la peine de M. Bemba, sur le rôle dissuasif des condamnations de la CPI et sur les mesures destinées à améliorer l’efficacité du Bureau du Procureur

Au début du mois, le procureur de la Cour pénale internationale Fatou Bensouda a répondu aux questions d’International Justice Monitor. Elle a parlé de la peine de prison de 18 ans prononcée à l’encontre de Jean-Pierre Bemba, de la manière dont les condamnations de M. Bemba et M. Lubanga pouvaient avoir un rôle dissuasif ainsi que des défis qui accompagnent l’instruction et la poursuite des auteurs de crimes pour de nombreuses charges comme dans l’affaire de Bosco Ntaganda et de Dominic Ongwen. Le procureur a également évoqué les efforts de son bureau pour qu’il soit plus efficace.

Wairagala Wakabi :Du point de vue du Bureau du Procureur (BdP), quelle est la signification de la condamnation de M. Bemba ?

Fatou Bensouda : Le verdict envoie un message fort … Continue Reading

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