Turn Ongwen into witness, lawyer tells ICC

Thursday September 20 2018

Trial. Former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen

Trial. Former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen before the ICC in the Hague, Netherlands, on January 21, 2016. AFP PHOTO 

By Anthony Wesaka

The Hague. The former commander of the Sinia Brigade with the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), Dominic Ongwen, should be a prosecution witness and not an accused, his defence lawyer has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Mr Charles Achaleke Taku, also known as Chief, told the ICC on Tuesday evening that the defence witnesses that they intend to call starting October 1, will tell court of how the two-decade atrocities committed in northern Uganda were perpetuated by Joseph Kony and not Ongwen.
Ongwen faces 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the ICC, which he denies.
He is also accused of unleashing attacks on four camps for people displaced by conflict in Pajule, Abok, Lukodi and Odek in Gulu and Oyam districts of northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005.
“The victims that the defence will call to testify, like those who have testified before, will identify Joseph Kony and the LRA, not Dominic Ongwen as the orchestrated of their victimhood,” Mr Taku told court.
“Dominic Ongwen should be sitting on the bench of potential witnesses awaiting the potential prosecution of Joseph Kony and senior UPDF perpetrators - if that will ever happen and not as an accused for 70 charges,” he added.
The defence side told court that they will adduce evidence to show that Kony did not share any authority with Ongwen and therefore, he did not involve him in his operations to kill civilians as prosecution suggests.
Ongwen’s defence team also told court that they will present evidence to show that despite the risks to his life, their client while nursing a fatal combat injury, established a contact with President Museveni’s young brother, Gen Salim Saleh, on how to escape from rebellion but Kony found out and caused his arrest and eventual imprisonment to await for his fate.
This they say was a good gesture by Ongwen to disassociate himself from the Kony rebellion against government but in vain.
Presiding judge Bertram Schmitt said the first defence witness is expected to take to the dock and defend Ongwen starting October 1.