Ongwen trial: defence wants UPDF officers arraigned before ICC

Sep 19, 2018

Ongwen, 43, born in Korom village, Kilak sub-county in Omolo district was abducted at the age of nine while on his way to school.


Lawyers representing former rebel commander, Dominic Ongwen, have punched holes into the Northern Uganda insurgency accusing government of perpetrating most of the crimes against civilians.

"Ongwen mirrors the state of Uganda and its leadership …… justice will not be seen to be done or complete unless the leaders of Uganda, particularly the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defence Forces) commanders  who devised and implemented the counter strategy against the LRA, are arraigned before this court," said Krispus Ayena Odongo, a defence lawyer.

While making their opening defence statement before the court, Odongo attributed the rise of the two rebel groups, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit movement, to the alleged repression and persecution of the Northern Uganda tribes by the current government.

He said  the atrocities committed in Northern Uganda were perpetrated by government soldiers who made it appear like it was the LRA doing it.

"Government forces have more to answer about the war crimes of attacking the civilian populations than Ongwen," he said.

He explained that the emergency of the LRA was a direct response to the government ‘oppressive' policies in Acholi land and that government used it as a pretext to execute its plans against the people in Northern Uganda.

"LRA presented itself as a perfect justification for the government of Uganda to complete its mission of bringing Northern Uganda and the Eastern tribes to their knees to ensure they are no longer a political threat to their hegemony," he told the court.

He told the court that the deaths in the Internally Displaced People's camps were not a deliberate design of the rebel group but it occurred during the cross fires between them and the government army.

Odongo also stated that the deaths can't be entirely blamed on the LRA since there was no forensic examination done on those who died to ascertain whose gun killed the victims.

He said his client, Ongwen, is a product of the interplay of the politics of government and the LRA and should not be held entirely liable for the crimes against humanity.

Ongwen, 43,  born in  Korom village, Kilak sub-county in Omolo district was abducted at the age of nine while on his way to school. According to his lawyers, he was raised by the LRA chief who turned him into what he became later in life.

He is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for crimes he is alleged to have committed as the LRA commander. He is alleged to have committed these crimes between July 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005.

The charges against him also include his alleged role in attacks on four former camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in northern Uganda and sex and gender-based crimes.

The charges are largely brought against him for the alleged crimes he committed between 2002 and 2005 while commanding the rebel Sinai brigade.

Odongo who is his lead lawyer also at one time served as a legal advisor to the LRA during peace talks that were held between 2006 and 2008. Odongo's co-counsel are Charles Achaleke Taku and Beth Lyons.

His defence case will kick off on October 1, 2018 and he is expected to call over 60 witnesses including three children and former wife of the LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony, former LRA fighters who are now in Uganda's military, former members of a government-backed militia used to protect the IDP camps, the Local Defense Unit and psychiatrists Emilio Ovuga and Dickens Akena.

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