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Closing statements in Ongwen trial trigger war memories in Gulu

FILE PHOTO: Ongwen in the Hague

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The closing statements in the trial of former rebel Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA Commander, Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court-ICC evoked memories of the two-decade insurgency in Northern Uganda.

It follows the live streaming of the concluding arguments on Ongwen’s trial which is being followed by hundreds of people at the Gulu District Council Hall. Dozens of LRA survivors from Amuru, Nwoya, Omoro, Pader and Kitgum districts turned up for the live streaming.

For four hours and thirty minutes, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor led by Senior Trial Lawyer, Benjamin Gumpert presented to the judges a wrap up of key issues that had already been presented during the course of 231 day trial that started on December 6, 2016.

Testimonies of two anonymous witnesses were relayed. One of the witnesses affirmed that Ongwen was a good man and helped mothers during captivity whereas the second witness narrated how she was molested by the LRA commander at a tender age.

The testimonies from protected witnesses triggered an emotional outburst from Patrick Okwakalwak, a resident of Bungatira sub-county, the former home of Lukodi IDP camp. The same camp was allegedly attacked by Ongwen in 2004.

Jennifer Lagen, another emotionally drained viewer of the live streaming argues that Ongwen may have committed the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity because he was abducted at a teenage age and thus acted under duress.

Lucy Aber, 49, one of the survivors of the Lukodi IDP attack in 2004 and resident of Cetkana village in Awach sub-county asserts that Ogwen’s case has dragged for too long denying justice to victims of his blatant atrocities.

The closing statements in Ongwen case are scheduled for March 10-12, 2020 before Trial Chamber IX of the ICC in The Hague, The Netherlands. The Prosecution, the Legal Representatives of Victims and the Defense will present their final arguments. Prosecution and Defense all had already presented 69 and 54 witnesses respectively.

The ICC Outreach Officer in Uganda, Maria Kamara Mabinti, explains that lawyers representing victims led by Joseph Akwenyu Manoba and Francisco Cox as well as Paolina Massidda have been allotted three hours on Wednesday to present their closing arguments.

Speaking to URN during an interview on Tuesday, Kamara said Ongwen’s defense lawyers led by Krispus Ayena Odongo will be given four hours and thirty minutes to present their arguments to the Judges on Thursday after which, the judges will announce the cause of action.

Ongwen is standing trial for 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda. The war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Ongwen include among others; murder, torture, enslavement, and pillaging he is said to have commanded as an adult against four internally displaced persons (IDP) camps—Pajule (October 2003), Odek (April 2004), Lukodi (May 2004), and Abok (June 2004) respectively.

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