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ICC Expands Screening of Ongwen Trial in Northern Uganda :: Uganda Radionetwork
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ICC Expands Screening of Ongwen Trial in Northern Uganda

The International Criminal Court is expanding the public screening of the ongoing trial of Dominic Ongwen, former commander of the Lords Resistance Army LRA, to 23 communities in Northern Uganda.
Ambassador of Denmark Morgen Pedersen Handing Over Equipment To Community Members

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The International Criminal Court is expanding the public screening of the ongoing trial of Dominic Ongwen, former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), to 23 communities in Northern Uganda.

The Court initially conducted the screening at just six locations namely Lukodi, Pajule, Abok, Odek, Coorom and Gulu Town. Today, the court handed over assortment of video screening equipment to 23 communities affected by the LRA conflict in the region.

The Court says beneficiary communities will use the equipment to increase their access to the ongoing trial of Dominic Ongwen, happening at The Hague in The Netherlands. The donation is part of 210,000 Euros access to justice project being implemented by the ICC Field Outreach Office in Uganda. The project was launched in July this year.

Maria Mabinty Kamara, the acting chief of office says the 23 sets of video screening equipment include digital cameras, public address systems, radio sets, DVD players, generators and metallic boxes for safe storage under lock and key.

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Kamara says the project was born out of the overwhelming demands communities exhibited towards the opening trial of Ongwen in February last year. She says the equipment will be used to stage monthly screening of the trial in 23 parishes around the four case locations of Lukodi, Abok, Pajule and Odek where Ongwen is alleged to have sanctioned the commitment of crimes against humanity.

“The objective is to bring the trial from the courtroom in The Hague to the victims and affected communities in the 23 parishes which include among others Coorom, the birth place of Dominic Ongwen. We want to guarantee accessibility and transparency to the trial for victims to closely follow the proceedings for start to finish,” Kamara observed.

According to Kamara, to increase access to information about the trial, victims will be organized in radio listening clubs while journalists will be transported to The Hague to witness the trial and experience the proceedings from the courtroom to enhance their analysis of the trial.

“We have already facilitated religious and cultural leaders to witness the opening and we will do the same for journalists passionate about reporting on access to justice,” she said.

About 100 community members attended the handover of the equipment at Churchilll Courts Hotel in Gulu on Monday. Cyprian Ayoo, a community representative from Abok said he is confident the equipment will reduce the walking distance victims had to cover to a screening centre.

“During the trial opening, about 8,000 people congregated around small screens in demonstration of the huge interests they have around the trial of Dominic Ongwen. Therefore, our biggest prayer was for someone to come and reduce the number of persons around the screens and reduce the walking distance for us to closely follow the trial,” he stated.  

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Gulu district chairperson hailed the cooperation between the ICC and the Embassy of Denmark in bringing the trial closer to the people. He said when the trial opened, people gave mixed reactions as to whether they would know what was happening in the court room at The Hague.

“Different people said different things. It is a very big step that the ICC realised those concerns and took big steps to ensure that people realise what is going on in the court,” Mapenduzi said 

Ambassador of Denmark to Uganda, Morgen Pedersen, said the project is motivated by the fact that it is extremely difficult to understand what is happening thousands of kilometres away in The Hague.

“Without truth telling and reconciliation, it is extremely difficult to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable development. Justice must not just be done but seen to be done. I hope by watching the screens you will find that justice is brought closer to you,” he stated adding that those responsible for atrocities committed in Northern Uganda must be brought to justice. 

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Sinia Brigade of LRA, is standing trial for 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed by serving for the rebel out fit. 

The crimes were alleged to have been committed in the internally people's displaced camps in Lukodi, Pajule and Abok in Oyam district and Pajule in Pader district.