International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Witness Tells Court He Twice Survived Being Nearly Killed While in the LRA

A witness broke down and cried loudly as he began narrating to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted him about 14 years ago when he and his family fled their home after neighbors warned them the rebel group was in the vicinity.

Witness P-200 broke down about half an hour into his testimony on Monday. Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt ordered a short break in proceedings to allow the witness to recover and an assessment to be made on whether he could continue his testimony. Witness P-200 resumed his testimony after about 15 minutes. Monday’s hearing was also shortened to give the witness longer breaks between his testimony.

He is testifying in the ICC trial of Dominic … Continue Reading

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Former LRA Officer Insists Ongwen Participated in Lukodi Attack

A former long-serving member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insisted Dominic Ongwen participated in attacking the Lukodi camp for internally displaced people (IDP) 13 years ago.

Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, suggested on Friday that Ongwen was not at Lukodi when the attack happened in May 2004. Witness P-145 told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he was. The witness also told the court Ongwen addressed LRA fighters before they went to attack Lukodi.

Ongwen, a former LRA commander, is on trial at the ICC and has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the attack on Lukodi. He has also been charged for his alleged role in attacks on three … Continue Reading

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Bemba Pleads With ICC Appeals Judges for Reduced Sentence

Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has pleaded with appeals judges to lower his sentence, arguing that the nearly ten years he has spent in detention are a sufficient sentence.

Bemba is also appealing the conviction decision, arguing that his fair trial rights were abused during the trial. He argues that judges dismissed all evidence submitted by the defense that exonerated him and instead based its conviction on weak prosecution evidence.

At an appeal hearing last week, defense lawyer Kate Gibson said the 18-year sentence was disproportionate to the conviction, adding that it is “in fact so unreasonable as to constitute an abuse of the Trial Chamber’s discretion.”

However, the … Continue Reading

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Ambiguity Around the Participation of Gbagbo’s Witnesses

The last prosecution witness in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé completed her testimony on Friday, January 19, 2018. Defense witnesses were expected as soon as the trial resumed, but they may not be heard for several weeks.

A forensic expert, Professor Hélène Yapo Etté, completed her testimony before the International Criminal Court (ICC). As the last witness called by the prosecution, the medical examiner was questioned by the various parties throughout the day’s hearing.

The prosecution has finished calling its witnesses, but nothing is clear about the passage of the witnesses called by the defense. In fact, while they were expected to begin their testimony just after the final prosecution witness, it is not known to date when they … Continue Reading

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A Former LRA Officer Disputes the LRA’s Goal was to Overthrow the Ugandan Government

A former long-serving member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that after he escaped the group he concluded the LRA’s goal was not to overthrow the Ugandan government. He said he also appealed on FM radio to LRA members to leave the group.

Witness P-145 told the court on Wednesday about collecting and carrying away food looted during an LRA attack on the Lukodi camp for internally displaced people (IDP). He said he did not participate in the attack nor did he witness what happened during the attack.

Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander who is on trial at the ICC, has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his … Continue Reading

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Hélène Yapo Etté, Bensouda’s Last Witness in Court

The trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé before the International Criminal Court (ICC) went into recess in December 2017 and resumed on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

After a break of several weeks in their trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were now back in The Hague courtroom on January 17.

This was also the beginning of the testimony of Professor Hélène Yapo Etté, a forensic physician and the last prosecution witness.

The discussion was highly technical and focused on the work of the forensic expert during the post-election crisis. In her testimony, she said that several families were pressing to recover the bodies submitted for examination by her teams.

“These people arrive, identify themselves by … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer Casts Doubt on Whether Witness Knew Ongwen

On Tuesday, a lawyer defending Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) cast doubt on whether a former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) saw or knew Ongwen, as the former fighter had testified a day earlier.

Thomas Obhof also cast doubt on what Witness P-250 knew about the LRA brigade he had testified he belonged to while he was with the rebel group. Witness P-250 insisted that he knew Ongwen, but he conceded there were details about the brigade he belonged to that he did not know.

Ongwen is on trial facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has been charged with attacking camps for internally displaced people (IDP), committing sex crimes, and conscripting child … Continue Reading

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Witness Testifies About Attacking the Pajule IDP Camp Where His Father, Sister Lived

A former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about being abducted by the LRA and later taking part in an attack on a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) where his father, sister, and other relatives lived.

Witness P-250* testified on Monday in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, which resumed after a 45-day break. The last hearing of 2017 in Ongwen’s trial was on November 30. The trial has been going on since December 2016, and Witness P-250 is the 54th prosecution witness to testify.

The witness told the court he took part in an October 2003 attack on the Pajule IDP camp where his father, sister, and other relatives resided. … Continue Reading

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Appeal Hearing Focuses on Bemba’s Mode of Liability

Hearings in the appeal of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have over the last two days dwelt on the interpretation of what constitutes a military commander’s responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates. Equally at the center of hearings was the level of knowledge a commander needs to have about subordinates’ crimes in order to bear criminal liability.

The hearing, which started on Tuesday, considered Bemba’s appeal against his conviction, as well as prosecution and defense appeals against the 18-year prison term handed to him in 2016. Bemba, who was commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel group, was found guilty of failing to prevent or punish his troops who committed murder, rape, and … Continue Reading

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At Appeal Hearing, Defense Lawyers Say Bemba Was Denied a Fair Trial

On Tuesday, January 9, lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba argued at an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was denied a fair trial and his exculpatory evidence was unjustifiably dismissed, leading to his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III convicted Bemba of crimes committed 15 years ago in the Central African Republic (CAR). At the hearing, defense lawyer Peter Haynes faulted trial chamber judges for allowing the prosecution to access privileged communication between Bemba and his lawyers and for receiving evidence from the prosecution without allowing Bemba to offer his side of the story.

Haynes said the prosecution made several ex parte … Continue Reading

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