ICC Judge in LRA’s Ongwen case dropped


NEW JUDGE: Justice Cuno Jakob Tarfusser to preside over Dominic Ongwen case at the ICC

Justice Ekaterina Trendiflova has been dropped from the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former top commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Justice Trendiflova presided over the initial appearance of Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague early this year.

She however, has been replaced with Justice Cuno Jakob Tarfusser, the newly elected judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II.

Justice Trendiflova was due to hear an application in which the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is seeking to reschedule the confirmation of charges against Ongwen from August 2015 to January 31 2016.

The decision to drop JusticeTrendiflova was reached on March 25 in the presence of Crispus Ayena Odongo, Ongwen’s lead counsel.

According to ICC Public Affairs Unit, Pre-Trail Chamber II has designated Judge Jakob Cuno Tarfusser to proceed with the trial of Dominic Ongwen as a single judge.


LRA’s Dominic Ongwen at the ICC


As presiding judge of the Pre Trial Chamber II, Justice Cuno Jakob will also be in charge of the case involving LRA leader Joseph Kony who is still at large.

He would also be in charge of  Okot Odhiambo’s case but this indictee was reportedly killed in the jungles of the Central African Republic and, according to the Uganda army, his remains were flown into the East African country two weeks ago, for confirmatory genealogy tests.

The two other indictees Raska Lukwiya and Vincent Otti are said to be dead, with the latter reportedly killed by Kony after the two disagreed.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Chamber says the decision to replace Justice Trendiflova is based on objective criteria agreed upon by the Pre-Trial Chamber, including consideration of the issues involved, the circumstances of the proceedings before the Chamber.

Other considerations were the distribution of work within the Chamber and the proper management and efficiency in the handling of cases.

Justice Cuno Jakob is a specialist in prosecuting cases of sexual violence, rape, sexual exploitation of children, child abuse and maltreatment, domestic violence and violence against women in order to induct them into prostitution among other organized crimes.

While at the ICC, Justice Cuno Jakob Tarfusser presided over the trial of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba charged with five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last November, his team of investigators found reasonable grounds that Bemba and his legal defense team influenced witnesses to give false evidence.

The findings mean Bemba’s time at the ICC is not yet over after four years of trial as he is due to undergo another trial this year for tampering with evidence.

Justice Cuno Jakob Tarfusser says he will use his time at the ICC to accomplish three major tasks of exercising right judgment by trying individuals allegedly responsible for the crimes provided for by the Rome Statue.

The others are bringing justice to victims to ensure that they claim compensation for the wrongs they have suffered and quality of justice by improving the organizational and managerial aspect through clear and standardized work flows and procedures, accountability and assessment of both customer satisfaction and service quality among others.

Since inception, the ICC has indicted 32 people, all from Africa. Among these are Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, whose trial at the ICC caused uproar, with several African presidents castigating the Hague-based international court for ‘targeting only Africans’. The charges against Kenyan leaders have since been dropped by the court.