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Ongwen Trial Condemns LRA Victims In West Nile To The Periphery of Justice

Solomy Awidi, a Transitional Lawyer at Refugee Law Project, says the victims shared their frustration with the trials during a documentation exercise to trace the various perspectives of communities affected by the conflict in the greater Northern Uganda held in Dzaipi and Arinyapi sub counties in Adjumani district last week.
Victim of LRA Mutilation In Northern Uganda

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The victims of the Lord's Resistance Army-LRA rebel insurgency in West Nile region have been sidelined in the ongoing trial of Dominic Ongwen and Thomas Kwoyelo, both former top commanders of the rebel outfit.

 

The victims fear that they may never get justice for the atrocities they suffered during the conflict when the two former commanders are found guilty. Ogwen is being tried by The Hague based International Criminal Court while Kwoyela was arraigned in the International Crimes Division of High Court in Uganda.

 

 

A recent study by the Refugee Law Project indicates that more than 300 victims of LRA conflict living in Dzaipi and Arinyapi sub counties in Adjumani district still want to join the trial of the two former war lords so as to benefit from the judicial process when the duo is found guilty and convicted.

Solomy Awidi, a Transitional Lawyer at Refugee Law Project, says the victims shared their frustration with the trials during a documentation exercise to trace the various perspectives of communities affected by the conflict in the greater Northern Uganda held in Dzaipi and Arinyapi sub counties in Adjumani district last week. 

 

 

The new report titled “Voices from Beyond” found that the victims of the conflict in Arinyapi Sub County are more ignorant about the ongoing judicial processes compared to their counterparts in Dzaipi Sub County. 

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Awidi says the victims expressed disappointment with the victims' assistance program that is being implemented in the region for ignoring their plight since the war came to an end.

She explains that some of the victims are still living with wounds of the conflict including bomb fragments lodged in their bodies while others suffer from untreated forms of sexual violations they suffered at the hands of the combatants. 

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According to the report, families with missing relatives are worried that they might never see their loved ones still believed to be in the captivity of the LRA rebels following the withdrawal of Uganda People's Defense Forces that were pursuing them from the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

Awidi says children born from the war told them that they continue to experience serious discrimination in public places such as schools where they are branded as second class citizens and children of rebels.

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The consultation also discovered that hosting refugees in the area has complicated the plight of the war victims as some of their land was taken away for establishing refugee settlements.

Other emerging issues include the mental health concerns among the victims who have recommended that proper reparations be implemented for all victims of the conflict in the parallel trials. The victims said it is a pity that both trials concentrate on LRA atrocities in Acholi sub region completely leaving out West Nile and Teso sub regions. 

 

Dominic Ongwen, the former commander of the Sinia Brigade is standing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges drawn from attacks on former camps of Internally Displaced Persons in Lukodi, Abok, Odek and Pajule between 2002 and 2005.

 

Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni, a former Combat commander in Kilak Hills in Amuru district is yet to enter plea for 94 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the domestic International Crimes Division of the High Court.

 

His charges stem from attacks he commanded on civilian populations in Pagak and Pabbo IDP Camps in Amuru district between 1993 and 1995.  According to the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, only victims participating in the trial of Dominic Ongwen will benefit from court ordered reparation.

Martin Denis Okwir, an official of the International Criminal Court Field Outreach in Uganda, says the judges of The Hague based court will select the victims to benefit from reparations when the trial is finally concluded. 

Tentatively, the trial of Ongwen is projected to end in 2020 while that of Thomas Kwoyelo is yet to start at the International Crimes Division of the High Court following years of delays related to an appeal he filed in the Supreme Court shortly after his amnesty application was overturned. 

The constitutional court had ordered the unconditional release of Kwoyelo on grounds that he was entitled to amnesty like other former LRA commanders.