ICC judges asked to dismiss 41 counts against Ongwen

Saturday February 9 2019

Dominic Ongwen

Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court on December 6, 2016. PHOTO | AFP 

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The team of lawyers defending Dominic Ongwen, the Ugandan rebel leader facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court, have asked the judges to dismiss 41 out of the 70 counts he has been charged with.

In a motion filed on February 1, the team, led by Krispus Ayena Odongo, has asked Trial Chamber IX to dismiss the charges due to a defective document.

The defence phase of Ongwen’s trial started in September last year. To date, the defence has presented 15 witnesses.

The prosecution concluded its case in April last year after presenting 69 witnesses. Lawyers for victims called seven witnesses who testified in May last year.

Mr Ongwen is on trial for crimes he is alleged to have had a role in as a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army . The crimes are alleged to have taken place between July 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005.

Mr Odongo said the Pre-Trial Chamber II’s decision confirming the charges did not specify Ongwen’s role in relation to some of the crimes, and that the decision did not also define his intent when allegedly committing them.

Broad counts

The defence team leader said some counts Ongwen has been charged with are broad with many elements to them, but the decision confirming the charges does not specify which of those elements apply to him.

Mr Odongo also argued that the count of forced marriage does not exist in the Rome Statute.

“In plain language, does the CoC [Confirmation of Charges] decision articulate or ‘make out’ the elements of the crimes and modes of liability charged against Mr Ongwen and support each element with factual allegation?" he questioned?

The Pre-Trial Chamber II issued its decision confirming the charges against Ongwen on March 23, 2016. Six days later, the defence filed a request for leave to appeal the confirmation of charges decision. That request was rejected.

Mr Odongo said the motion filed last Friday is different from the request made on March 29, 2016.

“The arguments of defects in the pleading of charges and modes of liability have not been previously litigated. In the appeal of the CoC Decision, the defence raised an issue of the sufficiency of the reasoning of the CoC decision,” he said.