By: Susan Kendi
The ICC trial against former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen will resume on 11th April, after taking a break for the long Easter holiday. Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt adjourned proceedings on March 28, 2018 after the conclusion of testimony by Doctor Catherine Abbo, an expert witness. The just concluded session had been in progress since March 19th.
Just before the break the lead Defence lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo had wound up asking follow up questioning to Dr Abbo,.
Headphones on and dressed in suit, Dominic Ongwen closely followed the hearing from one of the screens in front of him.
For a child or adult to be able to form their own mind there has to be space for alternatives and they also have to be provided the opportunity to have those alternatives. In Ongwen’s case there was an alternatives, An example: the LRA coming up with a family structure and in a different compound to help people cope. “I believe the room (the LRA) was not that dark. There was some light,”Dr Abbo said.
Dr Abbo told the Court that Ongwen is a resilient person and that the early secure attachment gave him a good background for his brain structuring. The expert witness said that if the bush had been terrible then the early secure attachment and development of Ongwen’s brain would be comprised but that was not the case.
She added that unsuccessful indoctrination could not lead to a mental illness but a full psychiatric test would need to be carried out.
Here are the excerpts of the exchange between the lead Defence lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo and the expert witness, Doctor Catherine Abbo:
Odongo: You will give me time to apologize for recycling questions but follow up questions don’t take too much time…Joseph Kibwetere the leader for the movement of the restoration of the ten commandments of God the sick ones were leaders and the rest were followers’.Doctor, is it okay to say the rest were believers?
Abbo: Yes that is what made one follow.
Odongo: List and classify mental decompensation of those followers. Were there minds completely free of the consequences of their beliefs?
Abbo: I would like to draw line between beliefs that are regarded as normal and those regarded as pathological. I cannot make a general assessment…What I have experienced about shared beliefs is that those that follow, you can shake those beliefs so they cannot be pathological so there is no need for treatment but the leaders are the ones who are pathological so we offer them treatment.
Odongo: Can you say the LRA followers were pathological or non-pathological?
Abbo: Perhaps to a large extent there could be similarities, there is a leader here and another here. These leaders have beliefs, these two have followers that they have convinced to follow (their beliefs). There are similarities but one need to go beyond the generalization.
Odongo: The LRA as a military organisation was to a great extent woven in spiritualism in your studies did you draw any parallel, the LRA as an organisation and other organisations in relation to psychiatric?
Abbo: Not at that time but as for now I might try to draw a parallel as you call it.The underlying issue here are the beliefs so any organisation military or academics have core beliefs and I think that they remain what might make the difference is what forms those core beliefs .In the LRA it was spirits or something. What forms my beliefs may be different as that of another person.
Odongo: The other proposition is that indoctrination implies forcibly or cohesively making people thinking in certain ideology. Do we agree on that?
Odongo: (A premise)The LRA ideology was based on spiritualism where one was smeared butter was attached to organisation the leaders Joseph Kony was the alpha and omega, medium, could prophecy and predict the future, had power to know what was in the mind of his subject
Judge Bertram Schmitt: I don’t think Mrs Abbo is an expert in this matter
Abbo: For a child or adult to be able to form their own mind there has to be space for alternatives and they also have to be provided that opportunity to have those alternatives. (In Ongwen’s case)There could be alternatives an example the LRA coming with a family structure and the families living in different compounds helps people cope .I believe the room (LRA) was not that dark there were some light.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Would unsuccessful indoctrination lead to a mental illness?
Abbo: No. A full psychiatric test must be carried out.
Odongo: I would like us to pain the environmental picture in which Dominic Ongwen lived.
Abbo: I think Mr Ongwen is a resilient person. Early secure attachment gave him a good background to his brain structuring and we would expect if the bush was so terrible that early secure attachment and development of the brain could be comprised.
Odongo (Referring to a certain case where the boy, Joseph, grew with monkeys but later adjusted into human like behaviour) In this case the boy adapted like a monkey in the bush conditions. Having that ‘Joseph the monkey boy’ adapted to the behaviour of the monkeys then came and adapted to human behaviour, could you say the bush was favourable to the mental development of joseph as a human child?
Abbo: You need human and not animal interaction.
Odongo: Dr Abbo was that child in the bush like the other monkeys in his company
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Could we not leave this example and go more directly. We have had enough of this example.
Odongo: In the case of Ongwen could it be argued that since there was no food, out of necessity like those under whose control or order he was, he could have been forced to look for food and steal which has been in the context of the judges called pillaging?
Abbo: I think when you talk about stealing there are different reasons. Some are with pathological stealing and others because they need to satisfy their needs.
Odongo: Are there standard or average situations of necessity .Can you address us on that?
Abbo: (Stammering) I have seen people who are very needy but they don’t go steal so I cannot give a yes or no answer since it is relative.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: On behalf of the chamber I would like to thank you. This concludes the hearing of today and this evidentiary block. We resume on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
The Dominic Ongwen hearing takes a break to resume on Wednesday April 11, 2018.