By Susan Kendi
An expert witness testifying at the ongoing Dominic Ongwen trial told the International Criminal Court that the survivors of the 30-year conflict in Uganda want recognition.
Miss Teddy Atim, a researcher at Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, US, told the court that she interviewed 396 people living in the internally displaced persons’ camps.
“Do victims want to be recognized or to stop being victimized?” the presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt asked.
“When I spoke to most people, what I heard is that, “We need to be recognized. We need those who were responsible held accountable,” responded Miss Atim.
Here are excerpts of her exchange with between the Legal Representatives of the Victims, Francisco Cox:
Cox: Could you tell the court where you studied?
Atim: I studied in Northern Uganda for my primary and secondary education; I went on to Makerere University for my bachelor’s [degree]. I hold a masters degree in Humanitarian Assistance from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, and now I am still a PhD candidate in Wageningen University, Netherlands.
Cox: What is your occupation?
Atim: I am working as a researcher in Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, USA but do my research in Uganda primarily. My area of research looks at the conflict in Uganda, aspects of reparations and things related to transnational justice mechanisms.
Cox: What subject does your PhD focus on?
Atim: The recovery of young people and children affected by conflict in northern Uganda.
Cox: I assume you are from the Northern region?
Atim: I come from Lango sub-region, which is still part of northern Uganda.
Cox: Did your family suffer any crimes from the conflict?
Atim: Yes, that is correct. My family was displaced and we lost property, so yes we were affected.
Cox: Do you think this fact affects your impartiality to give a report?
Atim: No. It has got nothing to do with my own place but what I heard and what the victims said, that is what I will say here.
Cox: Could you please skim through (your report). Is that your report?
Cox: Do you agree with the contents?
Atim: Yes, I do.
Cox: Would you allow us to incorporate this report as evidence?
Cox: What were the objectives of this report?
Atim: To find the psychosocial impact on what happened and what services have been made available to the victims since the conflict and who provided the services, whether government or NGOs.
Cox: Who did this report?
Atim: I did it with colleagues Anastasia Marshak, who is a statistician, Dyan Mazurana and Rachel Gordon, who is a psychologist.
Cox: What is a victim’s assessment survey?
Atim: A survey conducted in the various camps…We went to interview them.
Cox: Are those people our clients?
Atim: Yes, they are registered as victims in this case.
Cox: How many people did you interview in the camps?
Atim: 396 people…When you want to quantify your research you can have some numbers in it…People experienced multiple crimes. One woman told me that her baby’s neck was twisted and the baby was thrown … Another woman told us that her child was thrown in a hut, burnt and lives with the burn till today. She ran with her other child strapped on the back.
Cox: What is psychosocial well-being?
Atim: Psychosocial well-being is the combined influence of physiological and social well-being of a person … We use the African youth psycho assessment tool developed by department of health, Harvard University. The higher the score, the poorer the person’s psychosocial well-being.
Cox: (Referring to her research) Individuals who have been affected have a score of 31 .Is that high or low?
Atim: That is low.
Cox: I would like you to focus on education access. Regarding access to education, are there some sub groups of our clients (victims represented in court) which are worse?
Atim: Yeah, there are those that are worse off. The attack has a long term impact on this population
Cox: What was the perceptions of justice that our clients had and what you report?
Atim: That comes mainly from qualitative interviews because of the entire general well-being, they feel that because of what happened to them they need corresponding measures to help them recover from these setbacks.
Judge Schmitt: Do victims want to be recognized or stop being victimized?
Atim: When I spoke to most people what I heard is that, “We need to be recognized. We need those who were responsible held accountable.”
Judge Schmitt: I believe we are getting to a close, Mr Cox?
Cox: Your Honour, I think I am done.
(Court took a break and the next session resumed as defence lawyer Abigail Bridgman began to question the witness)
Judge Schmitt: You have the floor, Miss Bridgman.
Bridgman: Thank you.
Bridgman: Madam Witness, did you use any quality mechanisms to ensure that there were no frauds?
Atim: We applied all ethical requirements we need to follow as researchers. Meaning, the way we sample is that everyone has an equal [chance] of participating because it was random and not selective in any way.
Bridgman: On the objectives you said the first objective is to document.
Atim: The objective came from the need for the study…In principle, the education in Uganda should be free but there are hidden costs. Some things like development funds for the school.
The victims lawyers began their presentation of evidence and witnesses on May 1, 2018 with the first witness V-2 testifying. The witness narrated how life in the LRA had been, how he was sent away from school when he told the head teacher his abduction story, his experience in the LRA and how he escaped from the bush.
Ongwen is facing 70 charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda.