By Sophie van Leeuwen
Dominic Ongwen will plead not guilty at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Justice Hub spoke to Krispis Ayena Odongo, lawyer of the alleged LRA commander and ex-child soldier after today’s status conference.
Q: How is Ongwen doing?
He seems to be comfortable. He’s a happy man. He talks to friends in prison about his case. It’s a peculiar one because he was arrested at the age of ten. People tell him he was not liable until eighteen. When we meet him, he tells us about these things. Ongwen is emphasising that he’s not responsible for most of the things he has been accused of.
Q: Today, the ICC prosecutor did not present new charges against Ongwen. Why not?
In court, one party or the other uses ambush tactics and applies for extensions. That is what Judge Tarfusser was trying to prevent – he was very clear on the timeline.
Q: The prosecutor has until 21 September to investigate. Will she make it?
The prosecutor still has to investigate. The question is whether there is sufficient evidence to prove new charges beyond reasonable doubt. If they are serious about the things they’re talking about, they should have mapped out the areas of investigation.
Q: What do you expect from new charges?
The prosecutor seems to be suggesting that Dominic took part in the Pajule attack, which involved the death of civilians, the burning of houses, abductions, and injuries. The second area seems to be agenda-based violence like sexual crimes and abduction.
We are happy Judge Tarfusser mentioned the Pajule attack in court. Before we were constantly guessing. Now we may begin to speculate about OTP investigations in Pajule. We can go to Pajule and find out what happened there. There could be victims and potential witnesses.
Q: How hard is it to investigate on the ground, ten years after the first investigations?
It’s extremely hard.
Q: Will Ongwen plead guilty or not?
He’s definitely going to plead not guilty. He allegedly committed crimes at the Ugandan IDP camp of Lukodi, like murder and enslavement. According to him, he was not there. When he learnt about the arrest warrant, his eyes got huge. ‘I did not do that. I did not say that’, he said.
He was in complete shock and disbelief. And he’s even more shocked about Pajule.
Lead image: Ongwen’s defence team, lawyer Krispis Ayena Odongo and his assistant Thomas Obhof in front of the ICC in the Hague (Photo: Sophie van Leeuwen/Justice Hub)