Ongwen's ICC Pre-Trial Hearing Ends


In short
The lead judge, Cuno Tarfusser of the three panels of justices announced the conclusion of the pre-trial session after hearing the final submissions from the prosecution and defense sides.

The International Criminal Court-ICC Pre-trial Chamber has concluded the five day confirmation of charges hearing against Dominic Ongwen, the former Commander of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army-LRA Sinia Brigade. Ongwen faces 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he alleged committed in the two-decade war in Northern Uganda. The war saw hundreds of civilians killed in a brutal manner.

The lead judge Cuno Tarfusser announced the conclusion of the pre-trial session after hearing the final submissions from the prosecution and defense sides. The two other judges are Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and Chang-ho Chung. "Confirmation of charges is concluded. I thank you all who participated and contributed to the chamber." said lead judge Tarfusser.  "In order to find the best solution and decide on the issue, we will issue our ruling within 60 days from tomorrow..." 

Earlier on, Poalina Massidda, one of the lawyers who represented the LRA victims, told court that the prosecution had adduced sufficient evidence to show that Ongwen committed all the crimes as charged and that he should be committed for a full trial. "There is sufficient evidence to establish that Mr. Ongwen committed the crimes. We therefore ask the chamber to confirm all the charges brought against him..." said Poalina.  

However, Krispus Ayena Odong, one of Ongwen's defense lawyers asked court not to confirm any of the 70 charges brought against his client on grounds that prosecution had failed to squarely link him to the mass killings. Ayena told court that his client is suffering double jeopardy as he has been denied to live in his village for the last 25 years and now finds himself at the ICC.

He also told court that the prosecution failed to prove that Kony stuck to the chain of command. Ayena further told court that the war was against the Ugandan government and the LRA rebel group, but unfortunately some innocent civilians were caught in the middle and killed. He added that his village is just four kilometers away from Abok, one of the camps that were attacked by rebels and that he knows exactly what the victims went through. 

Ayena suggested to court that the world should then come to the aid of the suffering Kony victims instead of just looking at them. The judges have three options at the end of scrutinizing the evidence.  The first option is to confirm some or all the charges against Ongwen and send him on full trial, the second is not to confirm all or some of the charges and the last option is to ask prosecution to carry out more investigations once the court finds that the evidence adduced points to something else.