By Tom Maliti
A prosecutor challenged Witness D-32 about differences in statements he made to a prosecution investigator and to the defense about Dominic Ongwen’s alleged role in an attack almost 15 years ago on a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Odek, an attack for which Ongwen has been charged at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Witness D-32 told the court on Friday that over radio a commander in Sinia brigade asked the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, whether he should attack Odek. The witness said the commander asked this after hearing Kony complain about the people of Odek.
Trial lawyer Colleen Gilg challenged him on this, presenting Witness D-32 with a statement he made to a prosecution investigator in which he is recorded saying that Ongwen volunteered to go and attack Odek. Witness D-32 insisted that it was another commander in Sinia brigade who asked about attacking Odek.
A former commander in Sinia brigade, the prosecution has charged Ongwen with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the April 29, 2004 attack the Odek IDP camp. He has also been charged for his alleged role in attacks on the IDP camps of Abok, Lukodi, and Pajule. In total, Ongwen is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The prosecution had interviewed Witness D-32 and planned to call him as a witness, but that changed. Later, the defense decided to call Witness D-32 as their witness, which is why he gave statements to both the prosecution and the defense.
Attack on Odek
On Friday, Gilg began her line of questioning on the Odek attack by asking Witness D-32 what he heard during a radio conversation Kony had with several LRA commanders some time before that attack.
“One of the people talking on the radio call was Dominic Ongwen, wasn’t it?” asked Gilg.
“There was information to everyone who had radio call. Kony spoke to those who had radio call,” replied Witness D-32. The radio call the witness referred to is a term widely used in the LRA for two-way radios.
“But Dominic Ongwen was not just listening. You heard him speaking, right?” asked Gilg.
“I did not hear him speak. The person who spoke was different from Dominic Ongwen. It was another commander who responded to what Kony was saying. He was another commander who responded to the orders that Kony was giving,” answered Witness D-32.
“Mr. Witness you said something different about this in your prosecution interview,” said Gilg. She then proceeded to read in court an excerpt of that interview.
In part of the excerpt Gilg read in court, a prosecution investigator asked the witness what he had heard in the LRA about the attack on Odek.
“Within the LRA the people who attacked Odek were Sinia. I heard Dominic Ongwen talking to Kony, and he was asking Kony that he should go and attack Odek,” Witness D-32 is recorded as telling the prosecution investigator.
“Dominic Ongwen requested to go to Odek, or Kony ordered him to go to Odek,” the prosecution investigator is recorded as asking the witness.
“No, no, Dominic is the one who requested [to go to Odek],” Witness D-32 is recorded as responding to the investigator.
“Okay, why?” the investigator is recorded as asking the witness.
“To go and attack Odek? The reasons … I do not know,” responded the witness.
Gilg then asked him to comment on what he had heard. Witness D-32 insisted that Ongwen did not ask to go and attack Odek. The witness said it was another commander in Sinia brigade who said so. Following this response, Gilg asked Witness D-32 to look at the transcript of his interview with the prosecution investigator.
“Are you saying that you don’t accept that the written transcript is correct?” asked Gilg.
“From what I have seen some portions are correct,” replied Witness D-32.
Gilg asked him what portions were incorrect.
“The incorrect portion is where reference is being made to the fact Dominic is being requested to go and fight at Odek. It was a different commander who did that. A different commander made that comment,” answered Witness D-32.
The court took a coffee break and when the hearing resumed, Gilg played an excerpt of an audio recording of the prosecution investigator’s interview with the witness.
“Mr. Witness, we just heard you telling the prosecution investigators that Dominic was the one who requested to attack Odek,” said Gilg.
“Yes, in the recording that was just played that is exactly what I heard. But it was Sinia sick bay and a different sick bay. It was Sinia sick bay that was there [during the attack on Odek],” said Witness D-32.
“So why did you tell that prosecution investigator it was Dominic?” asked Gilg.
Witness D-32 said several commanders were listening to what Kony was saying over the radio, “and there were other commanders who were supporting what Kony was saying.” Witness D-32 said if your commander speaks, you must listen and support what he was saying.
Towards the end of the hearing, Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, followed up on the issue of the differences between what Witness D-32 told a prosecution investigator and what he told the defense. Obhof had questioned Witness D-32 on behalf of Ongwen’s defense on Tuesday and Thursday.
Obhof asked the witness how many times he and Obhof discussed the differences in his statements to the prosecution and the defense.
“We discussed them more than once,” said Witness D-32.
“You remember what I told you about why we continuously discussed this?” asked Obhof.
“I do recall, but I somewhat have forgotten,” answered Witness D-32.
A short while later, Obhof asked him, “After our first meeting do you remember how many times you met with the Office of the Prosecutor?”
“After our first meeting I did not meet anyone else,” replied Witness D-32.
Attack on Lukodi
As with the subject of Witness D-32’s statements on Odek, Gilg had a similar exchange with him about Ongwen’s alleged role in the May 19, 2004 attack on Lukodi. Witness D-32 said fighters from the Gilva and Sinia brigades participated in the attack on Lukodi, but Ongwen was only informed about Sinia fighters going to Lukodi. The witness insisted Ongwen did not have a role in organizing who went to fight in Lukodi.
“And Olak Otulu was one of the two leaders of the Lukodi attack, right?” asked Gilg.
“That’s correct,” replied Witness D-32.
“He was a major in Gilva brigade at the time, correct?” asked Gilg.
“That’s correct,” answered Witness D-32.
“The other leader of the attack was Dominic Ongwen, correct?” asked Gilg.
“The commander from Sinia brigade under the leadership of Dominic Ongwen,” replied Witness D-32.
“And prior to the attack Kony summoned Dominic Ongwen and Otulu on the radio call to order the attack?” asked Gilg.
“He issued an order to Olak Otulu, and he issued another order informing Dominic Ongwen that one of his commanders who is with Olak Otulu should now go and attack Lukodi,” said Witness D-32.
“Mr. Witness, Kony told Otulu and Ongwen to select able-bodied men to attack Lukodi, didn’t he?” asked Gilg.
“He told them to select soldiers from Gilva, but from Sinia it was no longer necessary to go and select another group of soldiers,” replied Witness D-32. He explained that there was already a group of Sinia brigade members with Otulu and so they just joined in.
Gilg later read an excerpt of Witness D-32’s previous statement to a prosecution investigator to remind that he had told the prosecution that Ongwen was present when members of the Gilva and Sinia brigades were being chosen to attack Lukodi. He said that was correct. She also asked him about Ongwen’s whereabouts during the attack.
“Dominic Ongwen was nearby Lukodi during the attack because he was one of the two leaders [of the attack], correct?” asked Gilg.
“Correct,” replied Witness D-32.
He concluded his testimony on Friday. Witness D-27 is scheduled to testify on Monday.
This was first published on the International Justice Monitor.