By Susan Kendi
Prosecutors have lined up over 1,000 items of evidence in the case against former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court.
The 1,006 items of evidence, which are classified as confidential but disclosed to defence lawyers, include DNA tests that link Ongwen to children he allegedly fathered, letters between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and LRA commander Joseph Kony and the diary of the rebel movement’s political commissar. The items of evidence have been arranged in 10 categories in a filing posted on the ICC website on January 16 under new court rules. The prosecution filing lists audio visual materials, diaries, intelligence documents, certificates, police crime files, post-mortem and DNA test results, maps, photographs and letters among the items to be presented in court.
The letter President Museveni wrote to Kony discussed peaceful solution to the conflict, among other issues.
Also included in the bundle of documents is the diary of Sam Kolo, who served as the LRA’s head of political affairs. His role was, reportedly, to liaise with the international community as well as other external entities.
“The diary contains entries for the year 2003 and is relevant because it provides valuable insight into how the LRA engaged with external communities. It also contains information about LRA policies. Its contents support the assertion that the LRA was an organised and structured armed group,” the prosecutor claims in its filing.
“For example,” the prosecution add, “a diary entry dated 11 May 2003 records that LRA troops entered a school and abducted 44 pupils.”
Ongwen has been on trial since December 6, 2016 when his trial opened at the seat of the ICC in The Hague. The trial proper started on January 16, 2017.
Ongwen has been charged with 70 war crimes and crimes against humanity that include murder, abductions, rape, enslavement and performing inhumane deeds, inflicting bodily suffering and injuries, among others.
Ongwen was the lowest ranking of five LRA commanders against whom the ICC issued warrants of arrest in June 2005.Ongwen and the LRA leader Kony are the only surviving LRA leaders. The charges against him are based on the witness statements, transcribed and oral interviews, and recorded intercepted LRA radio communication, among others.
In the courtroom, the second witness went into private session soon after Ongwen’s lawyers opened cross-examination. After P0403’s evidence in chief was led by Prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert on January 18, Ongwen’s lawyer began to pick cross-examine the testimony on the logs of radio intercepts.
Uganda People’s Defence Forces began intercepting LRA communications in 2002-2003. There were no professional linguists involved in the Ugandan government’s interception and translation of the LRA communication. The splintering of the LRA made the group a more dangerous menace to civilians in the short-term, the witness had told the court.
“Not everything that was reported on LRA Radio was actually done, so it was difficult to know what was what,” said the witness, who works for the Office of the Prosecutor as an analyst. There is no record that Ongwen had a radio or a walkie-talkie. The witness doesn’t recall viewing information to the effect that President Museveni’s brother, Mr Salim Saleh, gave Ongwen a mobile phone that facilitated the latter’s escape in April 2003.
Over 1,300 people turned up at the viewing centres in Uganda to follow up the trial through web streaming. The hearing is expected to resume in public on Monday, January 23, 2017.