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Ex-LRA commander Dominic Ongwen surrounded by court guards and his defence lawyer at the ICC (Flickr/ICC-CPI)
28 January 2015 by Tjitske Lingsma, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), made his first appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday for a pretrial hearing. What now? IJT asked two experts what they expected of this first ICC case against a former child soldier-turned-perpetrator.

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People watching the opening of Dominic Ongwen's trial in Lukodi, the site of the largest single massacre by the LRA which features in the charges against Ongwen (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
19 January 2017 by Stephanie van den Berg

This week the trial of Dominic Ongwen [IJT-196] resumed in The Hague with the first witnesses testifying before the ICC. So far it is the prosecution setting up its case with expert witnesses on Ugandan history and the emergence of the Lords' Resistance Army (LRA) and army officials on how the radio intercepts of LRA communication worked.

IJT spoke with Ledio Cakaj, a researcher who has spent the last eight years interviewing hundreds of former LRA members, fighters, abductees and abductees-turned-fighters like Ongwen to understand how the LRA functions. He is also the author of the book “When the Walking Defeats You: One man's journey as Joseph Kony's bodyguard” which came out late last year. We asked Cakaj his views on the Ongwen case and the upcoming trial of Thomas Kwoyelo [IJT-192], another former LRA commander, in Uganda itself. Are these trials justice being done or were Kwoyelo and Ongwen just convenient defendants?

 

 

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Dominic Ongwen at the start of his ICC trial (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
06 December 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The first day of the trial of former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen did not exactly go as planned for ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Whereas usually the opening of a case gives a podium to the prosecutor who can make sweeping statements about the responsibility of the accused for the atrocities they are charged with, in this case the Ongwen trial started with the defendant and his defence strategy squarely in the spotlight.

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Thomas Kwoyelo (centre) and his lead counsel, Caleb Alaka, at the Internal Crimes Division (Photo: Samuel Egadu Okiror)
28 April 2016 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Gulu (Uganda)

Six years after the first proceedings were halted, Uganda’s International Crimes Division (ICD) will on Monday 2 May begin the controversial trial of Thomas 

Kwoyelo, former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But experts question whether justice will be served.

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Dominc Ongwen at the ICC for his confirmation of charges hearing (Photo: Twitter/ICC)
21 January 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The confirmation of charges hearing of former Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen started before the International Criminal Court (ICC) 21 January.
Prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert painted a harrowing picture of a victim and former child soldier Dominic Ongwen [IJT-174] who turned into a perpetrator himself. Ongwen went on to play a “crucial” role in the LRA's practice of abducting children, some as young as six years old, to be used as child soldiers and women and girls to be used as sex slaves or so-called  forced wives of LRA fighters.

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South Ossetian Internally Displaced Persons in Skra, Georgia in March 2012 (Photo: Flickr/Marco Fieber)
29 October 2015

This month we look at the investigation ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to open into Georgia with commentators arguing this could be a double-edged sword for Tblisi as the court has made it clear it will investigate alleged crimes from all sides. For the ICC meanwhile this probe signals a clear move away from the attention on situations in Africa, a big point of criticism from the court's detractors.

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Radio talk show in Gulu, Uganda, facilitated by the ICC in commemoration of International Justice Day in July 2011 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
21 October 2015 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Lira (Uganda)

Ugandan war crimes’ victims are growing increasingly frustrated with what they see as too little or too late from the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV). They ask why the fund, which is part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but operates independently, seems to be scaling back reparations while the court is expanding the charges in its first Ugandan case, against former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen.

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Former Khmer Rouge minister Ieng Thirith, charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions, appears at a pretrial hearing at the Cambodia tribunal in 2010. (Photo: Flickr/ECCC POOL/Tang Chhin Sothy)
20 May 2015

IJT 182 explores how so-called chivalrous beliefs and practices may be behind the rare prosecution of female war crimes suspects.

Other features:

  • A tug-of-war between Uganda and DRC over the extradition of Jamil Mukulu highlights trouble with judicial cooperation in Africa.
  • Colombian and Guatemalan survivors of sexual violence during their countries' armed conflicts fight for justice.
  • The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement tries to excise Balkan suspects of war crimes.

News brief:

  • A trial date for Chadian ex-dictator Hissène Habré has finally been set.
     
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A UN peacekeeper patrols the Beni region in eastern DRC, near the Ugandan border (Flickr/UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti)
17 May 2015 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Kampala (Uganda)

The dispute between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over Jamil Mukulu, leader of Uganda’s Islamist rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who was arrested last month in Tanzania, has exposed a lack of concerted regional effort in pursuing justice and accountability.

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Thomas Kwoyelo (centre) and his lead counsel, Caleb Alaka, at the Internal Crimes Division (Photo: Samuel Egadu Okiror)
21 April 2015 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Kampala (Uganda)

Five years after the trial was halted, the Ugandan Supreme Court delivered an eagerly awaited decision in the war crimes case against Thomas Kwoyelo [IJT-176]. But instead of providing clarity, the ruling to lift the former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander’s amnesty has been slammed by critics, calling it an example of double standards and selective prosecution.

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