By Markson Omagor
The International Criminal Court sitting at the Hague has found Dominic Ongwen guilty beyond reasonable doubt on 61 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handing down the verdict 2:00PM today, 4th February 2021, Bertram Schmitt, the Presiding Judge said the chambers found no reason to believe that Ongwen suffered from any mental breakdown while in the bush.
“On the contrary, the chambers found Ongwen completely in full possession of his mental faculties; he planned his attacks well and was admired by fellow commanders for his tactics,” the judge said.
The judge also said they found that Ongwen was not under any duress while committing the crimes he was charged with.
“He was not in a position of complete subordination but rather acted independently- he was not a puppet in a string,” he added.
Ongwen who was facing 70 charges was generally found guilty of crimes related to; murder & attempted murder, sexual slavery, rape and enslavement, destruction of property and pillaging.
Others are; persecution of civilians on political grounds, attack on civilians, and torture of civilians. Ongwen is also guilty of forced marriage.
Finally the judges found Ongwen guilty of conscripting children under the age of 15 years and engaging them in war activities.
The sentencing will be done on a later date after submissions from both the prosecutor and defence lawyers.
The trial Chamber had three judges. Others were; Judge Péter Kovács and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan.
The trial in this case opened on 6 December 2016. Dominic Ongwen is accused of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda. The Prosecution and the Defence have completed the presentation of their evidence. The Legal Representatives of Victims also called witnesses to appear before the Chamber. On 12 December 2019, the Presiding Judge declared the closure of the submission of evidence in the case. The closing briefs were filed on 24 February 2020. The closing statements took place from 10 to 12 March 2020.
Over the course of 231 hearings, the Chamber heard 69 witnesses and experts called by the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, 54 witnesses and experts called by the Defence team lead by Krispus Ayena Odongo and 7 witnesses and experts called by the Legal Representatives of the Victims participating in the proceedings. The judges ensured the respect of the rights guaranteed by the Rome Statute to each of the parties, including the right to question the witnesses.
A total of 4065 victims, represented by their legal counsels Joseph Akwenyu Manoba, and Francisco Cox, as well as Paolina Massidda, respectively, have been granted the right to participate in the proceedings. They have expressed their position on matters heard before the Chamber and were authorised to examine witnesses on specific issues.
The Trial Chamber issued 70 oral decisions, and 190 written decisions during the trial phase of the proceedings. The total case record, consisting of the filings of the parties and participants and the Chamber’s decision, currently includes more than 1750 filings.