Ongwen, the former LRA senior brigade commander, is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Chris Kiwawulo
Journalist @ New vision
Ongwen, the former LRA senior brigade commander, is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

COURT|ICC|CRIME

ICC - Former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander, Dominic Ongwen's defence team has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reschedule the ruling date for cases against the former rebel commander.

Ongwen's lawyers have asked the ICC to reschedule the delivery of the ruling on article 74(5) of the Rome Statute from January 12 to January 29, 2021.

On November 12, this year, the Trial Chamber IX of the ICC announced that the judgment on conviction or acquittal of Ongwen according to article 74 of the Rome Statute, will be delivered on January 12, 2021.

Ongwen, the former LRA senior brigade commander, is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed as an LRA commander in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005.

The charges fall into three categories: attacks on internally displaced persons' camps; sexual and gender-based crimes; and conscription of child soldiers. 

Ongwen has denied committing all counts.

In their request sent to the ICC, Ongwen's lawyers also filed an application to the court seeking a secure video link connection from inside the courtroom to allow the accused's two other co-counsels to remotely participate.

The defence wants Ongwen's lawyers; Charles Achaleke Taku and Beth Lyons to be allowed to remotely follow the proceedings through a video link.

In the statement issued Wednesday (November 25, 2020), the defence argued that; "a later judgement would be in the best interest of all parties and participants for the following reasons: it would allow for the registry to disseminate timely information appropriately to the people of northern Uganda about the judgment; it would negate any effect the judgment may have on the Ugandan elections scheduled for January 14, 2021; and it would not disenfranchise persons on the defence, prosecution, victims or registry who must vote in person in Uganda on January 14, 2021, Ugandan elections."

According to the ICC Outreach office in Kampala, the request will be decided upon by the ICC chamber, adding that they cannot speculate on the decision of the court.

"On our part (Outreach), we shall continue preparing towards January 12, 2021, until the judges decide otherwise," the Kampala ICC Outreach office said in a statement.

Ongwen's trial opened on December 6, 2016. 

Throughout 231 hearings, the Chamber heard 69 witnesses and experts called by the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, 54 witnesses and experts called by the Defense team, and seven witnesses and experts called by the Legal Representatives for Victims.

A total of 4,065 victims have been allowed to participate in the trial. 

The defense, the prosecution, and the victims' legal representatives concluded presentation of evidence in March 2020.

In April this year, trial Chamber IX declined to conditionally release Ongwen from the ICC detention center while he awaits judgment. 

According to judges, Ongwen's lawyers did not prove that his circumstances had changed to justify releasing him.

The judges said in their unanimous April 17 decision the reasons Ongwen's lawyers gave in their request for conditional release - that Ongwen was a victim and had been separated from his family - did not convince them to agree to such a request.

"The two arguments advanced by the Defence - the accused's status as an alleged victim and the fact that he is separated from his family in detention - are not new facts that arose at this stage of the proceedings," said the judges.

Judges Bertram Schmitt (presiding), Péter Kovács, and Raul C. Pangalangan, who form Trial Chamber IX, are presently deliberating on the evidence presented to them during trial hearings. 

Ongwen's trial began in December 2016 and concluded in March this year when the different legal teams made their closing statements.

In September and November of 2015, eight of Ongwen's former "wives" testified before Judge Cuno Tarfusser about sexual and gender-based crimes Ongwen is alleged to have committed against them.

In March 2016, the three-judge Pre-Trial Chamber II accepted the testimony of seven of these women as credible and confirmed the charges against Ongwen related to them. 

The transcript of the testimony of the seven former "wives" of Ongwen is part of the evidence Trial Chamber IX is deliberating on.  

ADVERTISEMENT