Dominic Ongwen lead lawyer has requested the International Criminal Court to
dismiss the charge of enslavement since the pleading of the charged crime is
In a court record filed on January 10, 2020, Ongwen’
lawyers argue that there is no difference between enslavement and sexual
slavery in accordance to the law. The defence said that charging and pleading
both charges, brings about legal confusion which prejudices their client’s
right to fair trial.
In their argument the defence lawyers cited that,
“Historically slaves had sexual obligations in addition to forced labour
obligations. Labor-intensive slavery (‘chattel slavery’) and sexual slavery are
therefore not mutually exclusive…In all respects and in all circumstances,
sexual slavery is slavery.”
The defence lawyers made a reference to two cases held
at the ICC, the Bosco Ntaganda and Germain Katanga trials where the forced
marriage charge was included under the crimes of sexual slavery and not as two
According to the Ongwen lawyers, the interpretation of
the trial chamber did not help understand the words “acts of sexual nature.”
The Victims lawyers have responded to the defence
request in a submission dated January 14, 2020 and asked the Trial chamber IX
to dismiss the request.
This is not the first time that the defence have asked
ICC judges to dismiss charges that Dominic Ongwen has been charged with. Ongwen
lawyers have filed two separate requests in February and September 2019 asking
the Judges to dismiss a total of 52 counts of crimes that Ongwen is facing at
the International Criminal Court terming them “defective.”
On February 1, 2019 the defence lawyers asked the
Court to dismiss more than half of the charges against their client, Ongwen.
In a four-part motion explaining the shortcomings in
the 104 page-long confirmation of charges decision against Ongwen, the Defence
asked the Trial Chamber IX to dismiss 14 counts that Ongwen is charged with.
However, adding up the various defects in the motion for dismissal, the charges
that the Defence lawyers want dismissed total to 41 counts of war crimes and
crimes against humanity.
The series format was adopted by the Defence to remain
within the 20-page limit set out in the ICC regulations and for “clarity and
expediency of the proceedings.”
The prosecution and victims’ lawyers were allowed by
the chamber to file a 65-page limit each responding to the issues raised in the
motion by the defence and the request for charges dismissal with a deadline set
for February 25, 2019.
The Trial Chamber IX Judges dismissed the submissions
for being “untimely” since it was filed years after the confirmation of charges
decision was made. The Judges also put no considerations on the merits and
demerits made by the defence.
The defence team appealed the decision and the appeal
chamber unanimously confirmed to the Trial chamber’s ruling adding that the
defence can raise the matter of the defective charges while making their
On September 20, 2019, the defence filed another
motion alleging errors in the confirmation of charges decision with regards to
11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes that Ongwen is charged with. Ongwen
lawyers further argued that the “lack of specificity in the allegations
continues to impact on Mr Ongwen’s fair trial rights and the conduct of the
Defence presentation of evidence.”
The Trial Chamber IX rejected the defence motion once
again in their October 8, 2019 decision terming it “untimely” and adding that
they were not convinced by the arguments the defence gave for filing the motion
considering they had dismissed a similar motion in February 2019.
So far, Ongwen lawyers have asked the Court to dismiss
a total of 53 charges against their clients in their February 2019, September
2019 and most recent January 10, 2020 motions. The counts include 41 counts of
war crimes and crimes against humanity, 11 counts of sexual and gender based
crimes and 1 request to dismiss the charge of enslavement respectively.
The chamber has also backdated the deadline for
submission of closing briefs to February 2020, a decision that was issued eight
days after the defence request for the court to reconsider and postpone the
date of the closing statements.
Ongwen is facing 70 counts of war crimes
and crimes against humanity which include: murder and attempted murder, sexual
slavery, forced marriage, torture, enslavement, conscription of children below
15 years of age, pillaging, destruction of property among other crimes
allegedly committed in Northern Uganda against the population living in Pajule,
Lukodi, Odek and Abok IDP camps.
Background on the trial
The Former Lord Resistance Army
Commander, Dominic Ongwen surrendered to the ICC in January 2015.He was
transferred to the court’s custody the same month following an arrest that had
been issued by the Court.
The confirmation hearing of Dominic
Ongwen charges was held between January 21 and 27, 2016 and the trial began
on December 6, 2016.
On December 6 and 7, 2016, the prosecution and legal
representatives of the victims made
their opening statements before judges of the International Criminal Court
The first group of 4107 victims is being represented by Joseph Akwenyu Manoba and Francisco Cox
whereas the second group of 1,502 victims, who did not select a lawyer, are
being represented by Paolina Massidda from the office of the public counsel for victims at the ICC and Jane
The prosecution’s case ran between January
2017 and April 12, 2018 with 69 witnesses testifying in the trial and on April
13, 2018, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda informed the Court of the
completion of the prosecution’s presentation.
The legal representatives of victims concluded presenting
their evidence on May 24, 2018.The victims’ phase opened on May 1, 2018 when
the team presented its first witness V-1. The Court heard seven witnesses
during this phase, four experts and three participating victims; a counsellor,
a teacher and Victim V-2. The witnesses testified on the impact the
30-year-conflict between the LRA and the Ugandan People’s Defence Force had on
the population in the northern part of the country and the victims’ suffering.
On June 3 to 9, 2018, the three judges,
prosecution, defence and the legal representatives of the victims in the trial
visited Pajule, Lukodi, Odek and Abok IDP camps which are the “charged attack
sites in the case” and met with community leaders from the area.
On September18, 2018, the defence gave its opening
statement and on October 1, 2018 Ongwen lawyers called their first witness.
Over 50 defence witnesses have testified in the case
January 10, 2020-Defence motion on the request for
dismissal of the charge of enslavement:
January 14, 2020- Victims’ lawyers’ response to the