16 Years after Uganda referred the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) justice will finally be served as the ICC delivers judgment on Dominic Ongwen on 4th February.
October 2005, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and four top LRA
commanders including Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Vincent
Otti to answer for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed
in Northern Uganda. Although Kony is still at large, only Ongwen is being
tried as the rest have been reported dead.
ravaged northern Uganda for over 20 years and are accused of pillaging,
murder, rape, sexual enslavement, mutilation and recruitment of child soldiers
Dominic Ongwen, the then commander
of the Sinia Brigade surrendered and has been on trial at the Hague-based court
since 6 December 2016 and faced 70 counts of war crimes and crimes
against humanity committed between 2002 and 2005 in
Abok, Odek, Pajule and Lukodi camps for internally displaced persons in
In total 231 hearings were held by
judges and the Prosecutor presented 69 witnesses and experts in support of
their case, while the defense led by Krispus Ayena Odongo Presented 54
witnesses and experts.
participated through their lawyers.
Now with Judgment set for Thursday 4th
February at midday, Ongwen could either be found guilty, or not guilty, but there is a
high possibility of an appeal whether a guilty or not guilty verdict is returned, according to the ICC outreach Coordinator Maria
Kamara was today speaking to journalists in a press
conference held at Hotel Africana via zoom on the ICC judgement on Ongwen.
With 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against
humanity, the judges will decide on each of them one by one, and Ongwen could
be found guilty for all of them, not guilty for all, or guilty for some and not
guilty for some, according to Kamara.
In the event of a guilty verdict declaration, the
judges will set a separate day for the sentence based on the judgment.
Kamara says that the prosecution and defense have
the right to appeal, and this could keep Ongwen on an interim release to a
country that accepts him until the appeal is done.
The Appeals chamber consists of judges who might not
have participated in the trial, and their decision is final. She says the
appeals chamber can reverse the matter entirely or uphold it.
She says it is most likely that the two sides will appeal
the ruling, since they have presented various motions appealing different
decisions throughout the process. If the appeals chamber upholds the verdict when
guilty, Ogwen will face a maximum of 30 years in jail in the member state
countries, or at an extreme end face life imprisonment as ICC does not sentence
”There are processes…
Cue out:…appeal the decision”//
According to Kamara, if Ongwen is guilty, there will
be reparation in form of rehabilitation of thousands of victims, social
support, and community support among others. This support comes from funding
from the Trust Fund for victims.
the event of an Acquittal?
If the judges find Ongwen not guilty, an appeal
can be made with the Trial Chamber, and based on this the judgment can be
upheld, or overturned, or a pre-trial can be ordered at the discretion of the
If the chamber upholds the verdict, and no side
appeals, processes are started to ensure that Ongwen is set free.
Kamara says that if Ongwen is found guilty, he is
free to return to his country and it is up to the authorities in the country to
ensure that Ongwen is protected like any other citizen.
The chamber may order the release of Ongwen, but the
Prosecutor may request that Ongwen remains in detention for exceptional
In the case of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude
after they were acquitted in January 2019 for accusations of crimes against humanity
committed in Cote d’Ivoire, until today they are under interim release following
an appeal by the prosecution.
They are currently staying in Belgium pending the hearing
of an appeal. This came with restrictions in movement and countries the person under temporary release travels
to have to accept him.
//Cue in: “It is up…
Cue out:…as any citizen”//
In terms of reparation, the victims will not get any
support, and compensation except for ongoing social and psychosocial support.
So far 56,000 victims have received this support. The victims cannot appeal to
the ICC judges, but they can only present their views.
The judgement will be delivered via the ICC
video link, You Tube Channel , facebook among others. In Northern Uganda, video
screening will be held in three locations in Gulu district, while several media
houses will broadcast the live judgment.