Ongwen's Pre-trial Hearing In Uganda Faces Challenges

2168 Views Kitgum, Uganda

In short
The International Criminal Court will need between 543 and 584 million shillings in flight tickets and daily subsistence allowance payments for court staff for the confirmation of charges hearing in Uganda.

The proposal by the International Criminal Court - ICC to bring the confirmation of charges hearing against Dominic Ongwen in Gulu, Northern Uganda is up against multiple challenges. This, despite a proposal by the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to hold the confirmation hearings in Uganda.

Three judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber II have also expressed support for hosting the confirmation of charges hearing in Gulu or the capital, Kampala. They said in a joint statement that sitting in Uganda for the hearing of the confirmation of charges may also contribute to a better perception of the court in Africa.

Spokesperson of the International Court, Dr. Fadi El Abdallah, says there are many other factors to be considered before such a hearing can be held in Uganda. Usually, the presidency of the ICC decides on case by case basis.

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El Abdallah said should the presidency decide in favour of bringing the hearing to Gulu or the capital Kampala, it will be necessary to construct missing facilities to the international standards of the court.

He adds that although the prosecutor will present evidence to support the 67 allegations, judges will only decide whether to proceed to trial, ask the prosecutor to do more investigations or drop the charges.

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A report by the registry of the court partially estimated that the court will spend almost 584 million shillings (141,374 Euros) in flight tickets and daily subsistence allowance payments for court staff alone, for the hearing to Uganda. 

Based in its current status, Gulu's International Crimes Division of the High Court does not qualify to host the ICC's confirmation of charges hearing. However, there is a strong case for the application of the Principle of Complementarity as the International Crimes Division of the High Court holds on to the trial of former LRA commander, Thomas Kwoyelo.

Allan Ngari is a researcher with Transnational Threats and International Crimes Division of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. He says if confirmed for Gulu, several observers converge again to witness the proceeding but there will be challenges.

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Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Gulu district chairperson is however still optimistic. According to Ojara, Bensouda already spent two days in Gulu when she visited the region early this year without any security concerns. 

Uganda will also hold general elections at this time, and chances are high that government may look at confirmation of charges hearings as a security threat. But the ICC will also be wary of the process being politicized.

Ngari says whether the confirmation of charges hearing is brought to Uganda or not, communities of victims of the war should prepare to take part in the various processes in order to find justice for their suffering.
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The confirmation of hearing has been scheduled for 21st January next year. Fatou Bensouda, ICC prosecutor recommended that the hearing be brought closer to victims of Ongwen's alleged crimes in Northern Uganda. 


About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.