ICC to use LRA phone conversations to pin Ongwen

Recordings of phone intercepts of the Lord’s Resistance Army ( LRA) communications are part of the evidence that the office of the te prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) intends to use to pin Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the rebel outfit.

Ongwen commanded the LRA’s Sinia Brigade faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between 2002 and 2005.

He is accused of personally masterminding attacks on civilians in Abok, Odek, Pajule and Lukodi camps for internally displaced persons.

The prosecution relied upon 160 witnesses including spiritualists, ex-LRA, Uganda Peoples Defense Forces among others. Defense meanwhile has so far seen 51 of the 69 witnesses.

Speaking at a press conference at Hotel Africana, Beti Hohler, the Associate trial Lawyer at the ICC says although they have several evidences against Ongwen,  the direct testimony of seven of the forced wives of Dominic Ongwen, and the Radio intercepts stand out.

Hohler says in the recordings, Dominic Ongwen is heard being questioned by LRA commander Joseph Kony on whether he was responsible for an attack, which he responded to in the affirmative – which is a strong piece of evidence to prove that Ongwen acted on his own behalf, without orders.

In the recordings, Hohler said, are testimonies from Ongwen’s forced wives stand out as evidence. She says the testimonies are not ordinary as it goes beyond only the description of what happened.

Ongwen’s trial is likely to end next year, with the presentation of evidence to be concluded by December this year, Holher said.

The defense initially indicated that they would present 72 witnesses, but it has since reduced their witness list to 69 individuals.

After both sides in the trail have presented their evidence, the judges will have a period of ten months to evaluate the evidence and write their judgement.

Holher emphasized Ongwen’s liability in leading attacks and refuted the defense claim that Ongwen failed to escape the LRA due to duress, and also questioned the defense’s claim that Ongwen was mentally ill.

“Ongwen was in control of his action and did not suffer any mental defect during the said period. The defense claims of duress have not been proven because it entails that the person in question was under threat of imminent death, which the prosecution have provided evidence to prove that Ongwen was not under such duress. The prosecution thinks he had autonomy at his rank, but he decided not to escape. Ultimately, it is for the judges to decide,” Holher said.

Holher said that the prosecution had presented evidence to prove Ongwen’s participation in the attacks on the four internally displaced persons (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Pajule, Odek, and Abok, but some defense witnesses had testified to the contrary especially in regard to the attack on Pajule which some defense witnesses told court happened in Ongwen’s absence.