Prosecution has already presented 69 witnesses to pin Ongwen, and this month, the defence team started to present witnesses too
The escort of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader, Joseph Kony, has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that contrary to the alleged cruel side, the ex-LRA combatant, Dominic Ongwen, was not a brutal person during his almost three decades in the jungles.
“The way Dominic related with people, well, I would say he is somebody who likes people. He was non-discriminatory. He was playful. I don’t think his life changed later because he loves people. Even later when he was already grown, and he was already higher in rank than myself, we were still living together just like before,” witness D-27, who was identified as Kony’s escort, told court this week on Monday.
Ongwen, who is charged for his alleged role as a former LRA commander for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005, faces a total of 70 counts at the ICC.
The LRA commander, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was handed over to the ICC in December 2015 for trial on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In 2003, Uganda petitioned the ICC to indict LRA leader, Joseph Kony, Ongwen and three other senior LRA rebels, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Vincent Otti.
The prosecution has already presented 69 witnesses to pin Ongwen, and this month, the defence team started to present witnesses too
When Ongwen’s lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, asked Kony’s escort to describe Ongwen’s life in the bush during the LRA rebellion, he Ongwen, who also started as Kony’s escort, was a law abiding person.
“It was often said there were commanders in the LRA who were very brutal. Was he [Ongwen] a brutal man to his soldiers, and also to the civilian population, for instance?” Odongo asked.
“No, Dominic was not a brutal person. I know that Dominic would obey the rules to the dot,” said the witness.
Ongwen was born in 1975 in Kilak County, Amuru district. He was abducted the LRA on his way to school, Koro Abili Primary School, in 1988. He was 14 years.
During his bush days, the witness said Ongwen was part of the insider ring, dubbed ‘control altar’ that used to direct military strategies of the rebel group.
The witness, who was himself abducted in 1990, told the court that although commanders within the LRA rank and file did not associate with those under their command, “Dominic would associate with them” freely and always showed his playful side to those under his command.
When the trial lawyer Hai Do Duc cross-examined the witness on why Ongwen and himself didn’t quit LRA activities given the gravity of crimes that the rebels were committing, the witness said, they feared retribution from Kony, who said: ‘If you escape they could also punish your family.”
“For that reason, very many people could not think of escaping,” he said.
Odongo wants the international court to dismiss 41, almost half of the over 70 charges against Ongwen, saying that they are defective.