It’s been a year in the making. 21 January 2016 marked the start of the confirmation of charges hearings against Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. Ongwen was surrendered to the Court almost a year ago, and his hearing has been one of the most discussed and anticipated over the last few months.
Once abducted as a young boy in Northern Uganda, Ongwen eventually turned into one of the top commanders in the Lord’s Resistance Army, and according to the Office of the Prosecutor, he is responsible for 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Appearing in a grey pinstriped suit, Ongwen listened carefully as the OTP laid out its reasoning for why the Trial Chamber should confirm the charges against him.
Although the world again adjusted its focus onto The Hague and the ICC in particular, some managed to provide reactions to the confirmation hearings from victims and their communities on social media. As the OTP laid out Ongwen’s path from abducted child to commander, reactions from people watching in Uganda painted a picture of what he could have been.
Questions raised were also raised about what would happen next at the court. For some people observing it was the first time, they had laid eyes on Ongwen. But seeing him in court also led to questions about what the Court would do next.
Another pressing question is that of guilt or whether Ongwen should actually be tried for the crimes he allegedly committed. It’s clear from the reactions that there’s no unified opinion from the affected communities on how Ongwen should be dealt with.
Although we’re only at the initial stages of the proceedings against Ongwen (assuming that charges will be confirmed), there’s already a lot of input from the affected communities on what is going on in The Hague. What’s important now is that the views of these people are taken into account – possibly not in the proceedings – at least in the broader discussions about Ongwen’s alleged guilt, reparations and the needs of the affected communities.
– What was your main takeaway from the first days of the hearing?
– What have been the most striking reactions you’ve seen so far?
– Are the voices of affected communities represented enough in the broader debate on international justice?
Lead image: People following the live transmission of the hearing of Lord’s Resistance Army Rebel Commander, Dominic Ongwen, in the Lukodi district of Gulu on 21 January 2016 (Photo: Isaac Kasamani/AFP)
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