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66 Witnesses Lined up to Defend Dominic Ongwen :: Uganda Radionetwork
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66 Witnesses Lined up to Defend Dominic Ongwen

The witnesses have been drawn from a pool of 82 people initially lined up to testify in favour of their client at the court. The figure is just three people short of the 69 witnesses that prosecution called against Dominic Ongwen.
Dominic Ongwen During His Trial At the International Criminal Court ICC
Up to 66 witnesses have been lined up to defend Dominic Ongwen; the former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army, now on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The witnesses have been drawn from a pool of 82 people initially lined up to testify in favour of their client at the court. The figure is just three people short of the 69 witnesses that prosecution called against Dominic Ongwen.

They will start testifying on September 18 when the court returns from recess, according to the judge designated to handle procedural matters on behalf of the other judges at the International Criminal Court, Justice Bertram Schmitt.

In his order, Judge Schmitt said the defence will have five hours to make their opening statement on September 18. He also said the first block of witnesses will testify between September 27 and October 10.

When Ongwen's trial opened in December 2016, his defence team elected not to make an opening statement then. Judge Schmitt had given them the option to do so in his initial directions from July 13, 2016, on how the trial will proceed.

In a May 29 request for a status conference, Ongwen's lead lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, indicated the defence intends to call 66 witnesses to testify, out of a pool of 82 witnesses. During their phase of the trial, the prosecution called 69 witnesses who testified between January 2017 and April 2018.

To date, Ongwen's defence has given notice that they intend to argue three grounds why Ongwen is not responsible or liable for the crimes he is alleged to have committed using Article 31 of the ICC's founding law, the Rome Statute.

The article provides grounds on which an accused person can argue how they are not criminally liable for the crimes they have been charged with. The first ground Ongwen's defence gave notice of on August 9, 2016, is that Ongwen has an alibi for the LRA's October 10, 2003 attack on the Pajule camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

An alibi is a piece of evidence that one was elsewhere at the time of the alleged crime. The second ground states that Ongwen was under duress during the charge period while the third ground is that Ongwen suffered a mental illness or defect when he is alleged to have committed the crimes he has been charged with.

In early 2016, Ongwen's legal team hired two Ugandan psychiatrists, Professor Emilio Ovuga and Dickens Akena, to assess their client as part of the preparation for a defense of mental illness or defect.

The reports Ovuga and Akena wrote have not been made public, but portions of their reports were discussed during the March and April 2018 testimony of three mental health experts the prosecution called. Ovuga and Akena's names have not been made public in court filings, but their names came up several times during the testimony of the prosecution's mental health experts.

Ayena has been Ongwen's lead lawyer since February 24, 2015. His co-counsels are Charles Taku and Beth Lyons. They are assisted by Thomas Obhof, Abigail Bridgman, Michael Rowse, Tibor Bajnovic, and Roy Titus Ayena.

 Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he is alleged to have committed between July 1, 2002, and December 31, 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. 

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