Ongwen Trial: Victims' Ordeal Narrated

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In short
Dominic Ongwen, himself a former child soldier who rose through the ranks of the Lords Resistance Army, faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. He is among others, accused of slaughtering civilians and ordering cannibalism.

The International Criminal Court has heard testimonies from over 1400 victims of the insurgency in Northern Uganda, as the confirmation of charges hearing against former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen entered day three.

The victims were represented in court by three of their lawyers; Paolina Massidda, Joseph Akwenyu Maniba and Francis Cox.

The lawyers told court that their client's views were endorsed by the majority of the victims from the Internally Displaced Peoples camps of Adek, Lukodi and Abok in six villages in Northern part of the country that was affected by Joseph Kony-led war against the Ugandan government.

Dominic Ongwen, himself a former child soldier who rose through the ranks of the Lord's Resistance Army, faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. He is among others, accused of slaughtering civilians and ordering cannibalism.

In one of the tales, court heard this afternoon that Ongwen's men abducted four members of the same family in Aboko IDP camp, with a sister being forced to kill her brother and thereafter ordered to eat mangoes with her hands full of her brother's blood.

Court also heard that Ongwen's group of rebels attacked a family in the same camp during their sleep and forced the father to have sex with her biological daughter. When the father refused to heed to the directive, the rebels forced the daughter to kill her father using a machete. The victim was then abducted and has never returned to her family.

In summarizing the victims' horrors, lawyer Cox told court that they since suffer from emotional and physical trauma as a result of the experiences.

Men, women and children alike had a tough experience which destroyed their future, relationships, and valuables and rendered them hopeless. Cox told court that some women who were abducted by the LRA rebels were divorced by their husbands upon return to their homes and children were unable to go through the school cycle.

The confirmation of charges hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes charged.

If charges are confirmed, the Pre-Trial Chamber commits the case for trial before a Trial Chamber, which conducts the subsequent phase of the proceedings before a final verdict can be given.

On the contrary, if at the end of the confirmation of charges hearing, the court finds that there is no sufficient evidence pinning Ongwen, the charges will be dropped and he is set free. 

The prosecutor originally charged Ongwen with three counts of crimes against humanity (murder, enslavement, and inhuman acts) and four counts of war crimes (murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally attacking a civilian population, and pillaging) committed in the Lukodi IDP camp in the Gulu district of Northern Uganda.

But on September 18, 2015, the prosecutor of the ICC announced that she would charge Dominic Ongwen with additional crimes, resulting in a total of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity which he now faces.

At the time of filing this story, Ongwen's lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo had taken to the floor to defend him of how he is innocent of all these charges and that the prosecution has miserably failed to place his client at the scene of crime.