ICC mulls additional charges for Ongwen

Ongwen

MORE TROUBLE: Former LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen at the ICC. Likely to face more charges.

The Office of the International Criminal Court(ICC) Chief Prosecutor is seeking to expand the case against indicted Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen, to include cases that were not listed in his initial indictment.

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told reporters in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Friday last week the prosecution had asked for more time, primarily to gather more evidence against Ongwen.

Ongwen, indicted in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been in the custody of the ICC for over two months now and the prosecution has been reviving contacts in Northern Uganda to serve as witnesses in the case.
Bensouda said the case had been shelved by the Hague-based court for a long time due to lack of progress. She conceded the court had been pre-occupied with other situations in other countries due to constrained resources which made them lose track of the Ongwen case.

She however now says that the court will gather more evidence that goes beyond the arrest warrant for which Ongwen was taken into custody.

In the arrest warrant, Ongwen was majorly charged for the murders and abductions that happened when the Lukodi IDP camp in Gulu was attacked.

Prosecution alleges Ongwen, acting on orders of LRA leader Joseph Kony carried out 41 murders and over 16 abductions during the raid.

It is this evidence the court seeks to expand and make a bigger case involving more victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The information on the attack was sourced from intercepted radio communications of the LRA by the UPDF and corroborated by witnesses and former members of the Lord’s Resistance Army
Dominic Ongwen was commander of the LRA and sat on its key decision-making organ, the control altar.

It is during his reign on this organ that the LRA carried out varied attacks on Internally Displaced (IDP) camps and isolated villages of Northern Uganda.

The war, that lasted over 20 years led to the death of over 100,000 people and the displacement of thousands, not to mention the destruction and looting of property.

BENS

ICC Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda plotting more Ongwen charges


Bensouda revealed she is seeking for more time to carry out investigations in the countries affected by the LRA war, noting the LRA files were “hibernated” by the ICC and no active probe was conducted. She said a request had been put to the judges to extend the confirmation trial of Ongwen, set for August 24, 2015.

The provisional hearing is to determine whether or not there is sufficient ground to confirm charges against Ongwen.
Meanwhile, Ugandan Members of Parliament representing areas ravaged by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict have implored the ICC to investigate reports the government committed atrocities alongside the rebel fighters during the insurgency.

The Plea was made during a closed door meeting between ten MPs from Acholi, Lango, West Nile and Teso sub regions and the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Bensouda at Parliament on Friday. The legislators equally questioned the court’s capacity to prosecute government agencies and individuals linked to some of the atrocities committed during the over 20-year old insurgency.

Fatou Bensouda has been in the East African country meeting with communities affected by the LRA insurgency and to carry out more investigations regarding the case.

Even though Bensouda is quoted to have stressed to the MPs that her major focus in Uganda is to collect more evidence on Ongwen’s case, Ayivu County MP, Bernard Atiku insisted that the ICC should not only stop at the victims’ testimonies but expand its scope to security agencies alleged to have committed atrocities.

Speaking shortly after the meeting, the Opposition Chief Whip Cecilia Ogwal said the mass killings in Northern Uganda region may have been committed by the LRA rebels, but government failed in its part to protect its citizens

The ICC Chief Prosecutor also met with the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who revealed pressure is being piled on regional governments to acknowledge the status of victims who have no legal status in Uganda, DR Congo and Central African Republic due to displacement by the LRA war.

“We have a few people who are stateless and were never born in the three countries. The East African heads of state summit must do more especially to first give them a status because that is a beginning of establishing their rights. The governments should also look at the post-conflict impact on the populations. It was a difficult 20 years for the people affected by the war,” Kadaga said.

Last month the International Criminal court officially requested for the help of the Ugandan government to verify documents that are being used in the trial of Dominic Ongwen. In a mail to then Ugandan Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, the ICC registrar asked the Ugandan government to aid in the verification and validation of documents to be used in the trial.

Ongwen’s ongoing trial at the ICC notwithstanding, the Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni a few months ago threatened to file motion at the AU calling for “mass Africa exit” from the court because of its tough stance toward African leaders and Africans.