By Tom Maliti
International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have rejected a motion Dominic Ongwen’s legal team filed asking them to dismiss 11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes Ongwen is alleged to have directly committed.
In an October 8 unanimous decision, Trial Chamber IX rejected the defense motion because it was late. The judges said they were not convinced by the reasons the defense gave for filing the motion, which came more than three years after Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the 11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes Ongwen is alleged to have directly committed.
Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed these charges in its March 23, 2016 decision in which Ongwen was charged with a total of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is alleged to have committed these crimes in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005. Ongwen has pleaded not guilty to the counts.
In their October 8 decision, Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt and Judges Peter Kovács and Raul C. Pangalangan also said the defense did not offer the chamber any reason why the defense’s September 20 motion should be considered when Trial Chamber IX and the Appeals Chamber dismissed a similar motion the defense filed earlier this year.
“For these reasons, the Chamber considers that the arguments presented in the Motion are untimely and that no exceptional circumstances justify their consideration at this point in time. Therefore, the arguments are dismissed in limine,” said the judges. Dismissing the defense motion in limine means the judges rejected it without considering the arguments the defense made about the 11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes.
In its October 8 decision, Trial Chamber IX also ordered that the submissions different parties and participants made on the defense motion either should be made public or a public redacted version be filed.
On September 20, Krispus Ayena Odongo, Ongwen’s lead lawyer, filed a motion in which he argued that the 11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes against Ongwen should be dismissed because they did not include details of where the crimes are alleged to have occurred. Odongo argued this lack of detail affected how Ongwen prepared his defense, infringing on his fair trial rights.
To further his argument, Odongo highlighted the details of the charges involving Witnesses P-099, P-101, and P-214. The motion, however, is silent on the other witnesses covered by the same 11 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes. The other witnesses include P-226, P-227, P-235, and P-236.
The prosecution asked the chamber to dismiss the defense motion in its September 24 response. Lawyers representing two groups of victims in the Ongwen trial both urged the chamber to dismiss the defense motion. The Common Legal Representative for Victims filed their response on September 27. The Legal Representatives for Victims filed their response on September 30.
In February this year, the defense filed a motion asking the chamber to dismiss 41 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity Ongwen has been charged with. The defense argued those charges against Ongwen were defective. Trial Chamber IX rejected the defense motion, and the Appeals Chamber upheld that decision in a July 17 judgement.
This was first published on the International Justice Monitor.