By Niklas Jakobsson
As Dominic Ongwen sat in the docks of the International Criminal Court for the second time in his life, anticipation was high for the “additional charges” that the Office of the Prosecutor had hinted at last time around. But an unsatisfied judge Cuno Tarfusser laid into the prosecution for its vagueness and tardiness during an otherwise uneventful status conference.
But the day was not a complete dud after the prosecution gave some, very minor hints as to what charges might be looming in the distance for the former Lord’s Resistance Army commander.
After a lengthy discussion on when the prosecution should make these new charges available to the defence, Judge Tarfusser finally laid down the law and ordered the prosecution to file a formal notice with new charges by 21 September. That gives the defence roughly four months to prepare, ahead of the confirmation of charges hearing.
But the real scoop of the day came after the status conference. In an interview with Justice Hub Ongwen’s lawyer, Krispis Ayena Odongo, finally put an end to a lengthy debate about whether Ongwen will plead guilty or not come January.
The original debate came after two pieces written earlier this year by Alex Whiting about the possibility, benefits and repercussions of Ongwen pleading guilty. But there were academics who stood ground throughout the debate, arguing that it was very unlikely that Ongwen would plead guilty. His lawyer’s statements therefore became the perfect legal “I told you so” moment.
So what is Ongwen’s position on the current charges against him? Not only does Ongwen believe that he is not guilty, he further claims that he was not even in Lukodi when one of the crimes he is alleged to have committed took place.
But as much as the interview gave clarity, it also caused confusion. During Ongwen’s first appearance at the Court, it was made clear that he was 14 at the time of his abduction. His current lawyer went against the original statements and shoved us back into the unknown.
After an uneventful status conference and an interesting follow-up discussion, it’s clear that we know more about Dominic Ongwen’s thoughts on the trial, but we still know very little about what the OTP will bring to the table come 21 September. One thing I do know for sure is that if judge Tarfusser keeps presiding over these proceedings, we can expect more fireworks if the Prosecution lags behind in their work yet again.
- Are you surprised that Ongwen will plead not guilty?
- How much of an impact will the age difference have at trial?
- Is the prosecution moving too slowly and was the criticism towards them warranted?
Read our interview with Ongwen’s lawyer, Krispis Ayena Odongo.
Lead image: Dominic Ongwen in dock at the ICC (Photo: Peter Dejong/EPA)
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