Dominic Ongwen

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver its judgment in the case against former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, Dominic Ongwen in 2020 or early 20121, according to the court’s Kampala Field Outreach office.

Ongwen is accused of commanding LRA rebels who attacked four camps for displaced people in Pajule in Pader District, Abok, Lukodi, Odek in Gulu and Oyam districts killing, raping and looting among other crimes committed by the insurgents.

While addressing journalists on Friday at Hotel Africana, Beti Hohler, an Associate Trial Lawyer said the defence team would conclude their case with five witnesses by November.

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“The prosecution is expected to present one more witness, a psychiatrist as a rebuttal and by December, the prosecution will have concluded, said Hohler.

The officials said the psychiatrist will help disprove evidence by defence lawyers that Ongwen committed the crimes against humanity because he was mentally ill.

By February, 26, 2020 parties are expected to have filed final written submissions and on March 10, both sides will present their closing statements. The panel of judges will then sit and deliver judgment between 6 and 10 months from then.

Ongwen was charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred during the LRA insurgency commanded by rebel leader Joseph Kony.

The accused is expected to rely on 69 witnesses and of these, 51 have already testified in Ongwen’s defence.

Dahirou Sant-Anna, the International Cooperation Adviser in the Office of the Prosecutor, said Ongwen relied on witnesses including local leaders in Northern Uganda, former LRA fighters, former Kony wives, former UPDF soldiers, witch doctors and former LDU members to defend him in the court.

He said Ongwen in his defence, told judges that he committed the crimes under duress and therefore cannot be held liable for the crimes.

His lawyers say Ogwen must be acquitted because he himself was a brutalised former child soldier in LRA. His attorneys told the court in The Hague that Ongwen cannot be held responsible as he was kidnapped by the LRA at the age of nine and “spent nearly 27 years in the grip of the LRA” as a “slave”. “Dominic Ongwen was a victim rather than a perpetrator. Once a victim, always a victim,” his lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo told the court last year.

But Hohle said: “We have adduced enough evidence to the court that we think can lead to a conviction. For the claims that he was under duress have not been satisfied because Ongwen was not under any threat as he alleges.”

Hohle said the evidence presented that included radio communication interceptions indicate that Ongwen was operating far away from LRA commander, Joseph Kony and had chances to escape but he never did it.

“He was the most senior commander in the LRA and very remote from Kony. He, therefore, had opportunities to escape but he didn’t.”

The Ugandan government in 2005 referred five top LRA leaders headed by Joseph Kony. Others included Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Dominic Ongwen and Odhiambo Okot to the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda.