A witness told the International Criminal Court on February 22, 2018 how the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters were ordered to kill whatever they found — even if it was an animal.
Witness P-448, who was previously questioned by Prosecutor Beti Hohler, Jane Adong and later by defence lawyer Abigail Bridgman via video link, told Trial Chamber IX of the ICC what happened to two civilians abducted by the LRA. The witness said that after the two had showed them where to find food and the location of the barracks, one of them was stabbed to death and the other was struck with a small axe.
Here are excerpts of the cross examination of Witness P-448 by lawyer Bridgman:
Witness: One of them was stabbed to death; the second moved with us [and] showed us where to find the food [as well as] where the barracks were, then he was later killed and left by the roadside.
Bridgman: Did you see this happen?
Bridgman: You said the first one was stabbed to death, what happened to the second one?
Witness: He was struck with a small axe.
Bridgman: Do you remember if he was present? Did he go with you to attack Pajule?
Witness: We only went with his boys but he himself was not present.
Bridgman: Do you know who gave the order to abduct these two people and kill them?
Witness: I don’t remember, but that day we were told whoever we find, even an animal, we must kill because today is the day for killing.
Bridgman: Do you remember how many people went to Pajule?
Witness: Probably more than 15, I cannot remember exactly how many we were.
Bridgman: In your statement you talk about the group you moved. Do I understand you correctly that those who went to Pajule were subdivided in smaller groups?
Witness: That is very true, they divided us in smaller groups because it is easy to run, when you fall in an ambush.
Bridgman: You have said that you were told to kill, who gave the order?
Witness: I do not remember the person who gave the order.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: At the time this happened in Lira, Pajule, had you learnt enough Acholi to understand what you were being told?
Witness: Yes, at that time I understood Acholi.
Bridgman: For the record, she was abducted in June 2003 and we know when the Pajule [attack] happened.
Beti Hohler: Just to interject, the prosecution is not relying on this witness’ testimony in matters of the Pajule attack.
Bridgman: Madam Witness, you said that in Pajule there was a woman called Adongo who was carrying a small gun. Do you by chance remember her other name?
Witness: I guess she was called Betty.
Bridgman: In your statement, you said when I was first asked I said that the attack on Pajule took place in 2004 but I remember it was the same year 2003, at the end.
Witness: It was actually 2003 because I was actually abducted in March 2003
Bridgman: Madam Witness, in your statement, you said, “I was abducted in June 2003,” but you have just said that you were abducted in March. Is there an error in your statement in that regard?
Witness: It is actually March 2003, that was the first time [Joseph] Kony first entered Amuria.
Bridgman: Do you have any recollection of the month that the Pajule attack happened?
Witness: I do not remember the month.
Bridgman: Going back to this lady called Adongo, was she always in Oka (battalion)?
Bridgman: Do you remember if she had a husband?
Bridgman: Do you remember his name?
Witness: He was Dominic Ongwen.
Bridgman: Was she the most senior female commander you met in the LRA?
Bridgman: In your statement you said you were told to go and collect food. You said that the man who was abducted was just to show them where the food was. How did the LRA know there was food in Pajule?
Witness: There was no prior knowledge we would simply move in a place or village and take. If we find a person we would tie them up and take whatever is edible.
Bridgman: When you went into the camp, did you carry anything with you?
Witness: I was not able to pick anything and move. The things I carried were those things that were given to me.
Bridgman: Sorry, Madam Witness. My question is when you went into the camp, did you carry anything with you? Going in?
Witness: I would carry sauce pans and water for cooking.
Bridgman: Were you instructed to make noise, ululations or were you moving quietly?
Witness: When we would enter a camp, we would make a lot of noise. We would make noise for people to think that we are so many [even when] we were few, so they could run away.
Bridgman: And this is what you did in Pajule?
Bridgman: When in the camp, did you see any UPDF soldiers?
Witness: I did not see because we entered that centre at night.
Bridgman: In your statement, you said that you encountered the UPDF inside the camp or were you already retreating, leaving the camp?
Witness: That was when we were leaving with food. We found them on a rock, they had prepared an ambush for us.
Bridgman: Were they on foot or was there a helicopter, a mamba?
Witness: I did not see anything like a helicopter or mamba but I saw the soldier physically. People would be killed. Even though someone was shot in front, you would jump [over] them and keep running.
Bridgman: When you were running, you said Adongo came to help. Did you see if she carried any injured people?
Witness: I did not see that. She told me now that things are bad, “Throw everything down and run with what is on your back.”
Bridgman: Do you know how many people were abducted?
Witness: I probably could estimate about eight during the attack. They could have been saved by the UPDF.
Bridgman: I might have questions on post attack, but that is okay.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: I have to address the scheduling. We will not manage to hear five witnesses in this block. The last witness will be P-187. It is my idea that this witness is put at the end of the block after the experts, since they have so many things.
Gumpert: If you prefer to speak to this after the break…
Judge Schmitt: We were to finish on Wednesday (February 28, 2018) but we are flexible. We will try to have P-187 before Easter or immediately after Easter. We will finish [with] the two upcoming witnesses. I am looking on the left because I believe Mr Obhof is preparing.
Mr Obhof: As long as we are given four days for the two witnesses, we are okay.
(Court takes a break and resumes with the lead defence lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, asking some follow up questions to the witness)
Odongo: It appears that you had a sexual encounter with Person Number One before he was sent on an expedition for food in Uganda, is that correct?
Beti Hohler: Your honours, I don’t think that is a fair proposition to put to the witness because she did not say that.
Judge Schmitt (Reading the witness’ statement): “I was with Person Number 2 for two months, he did not rape me often” so Mr Ayena I think you are on the wrong path, so move on.
Odongo: Your Honour, I will give a shot at it again but in a different way. Your Honour if you go to the doctor’s note in the English version.
Judge Schmitt: I have it in French but I can read French if only you could tell me what paragraph.
Odongo: Page 580.
Judge Schmitt: What paragraph?
Odongo: 5(2) (10).
Judge Bertram Schmitt: I understand.
Odongo: Am I asking a sensible question, Mr President?
Judge Schmitt: Move on.
Odongo: It would appear, Madam Witness, to be suggestive that you had a sexual encounter with him for one night, [and] you did not ask anything. He went the second day for expedition but you say that the man ravaged you and was asking for sex anyway, any day. Can you explain this?
Witness: That Person Number One did not ask even for consent. The first day I was given to him as a wife he raped me.
Judge Schmitt: Let’s move on.
Odongo: Can I say there is absolutely no way, upon any reasonable hypothesis, it could be said that your being in the LRA was the responsibility of Dominic. What do you say about that?
Witness: But it was his soldiers who abducted me. How could you not say it was him?
Odongo: I shall stop here.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: This concludes your testimony. On behalf of the Chamber, I thank you that you came to the video location and answered all questions put to you in the two days. You have helped the Chamber to determine the truth.
The witness completed her testimony and Witness P-085 would take the stand for two days, on February 23 and 26, 2018 to testify in the ongoing trial.