A director of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has cautioned the Acholi against intimidating witnesses in the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen.
“People should refrain from intimidating witnesses because it is the duty of the prosecution to protect them. As ICC, we give a clear warning that the prosecution will not hesitate to take appropriate action against those interfering with the witnesses,” said Mr Phakiso Machochoko, the ICC director for Jurisdiction, Complementary and Cooperation Division.
Addressing journalists in Gulu Town on Thursday, Mr Machochoko said intimidating witnesses who have relevant information will jeopardise the trial.
Mr Ongwen is among the top five LRA commanders indicted by the ICC in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the two-decade LRA atrocious insurgency in northern Uganda which later shifted to DR Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
Mr Ongwen surrendered early this year in the Central African Republic and was handed to the ICC for trial on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was on January 16 transferred to The Hague and made his pre-trial appearance on January 26 with the hearing of his case set to start in January 21 next year.
Mr Machochoko said the prosecution was gathering more evidence to strengthen its case against Ongwen.
“What is important for us is evidence, anyone with any information that implicates Ongwen in the crimes should come and report,” Mr Machochoko said.
The ICC International Cooperation Adviser, Mr Kamran Choudhry, advised witnesses in Ongwen case to maintain a low profile in order to enhance their safety before the trial starts.
“Our investigation team will reach out to the witnesses and for those who don’t speak English we inform them that we shall use interpreters to see that we get all the facts from them,” Mr Choudhry said.
Early this week, the Gulu District chairperson, Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, advised ICC to update the survivors of LRA atrocities with latest information regarding Ongwen’s trial at The Hague, Netherlands.
Early this month, ICC launched radio talk shows in northern Uganda to update the locals on what is happening in Ongwen’s case.