ICC to ensure atmost protection to witnesses in Dominic Ongwen case

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has reaffirmed that utmost protection will be granted to all witness in the trial against former warlord Dominic Ongwen that opens tomorrow in The Hague.

ICC Registrar Herman Von Hebel says they are working jointly with security authorities in Uganda to protect witnesses as soon as threats are detected and reported on their lives.

Over 4000 victims of the LRA-led rebellion in Northern Uganda have been granted status by the court to participate in the proceedings. However, it remains unclear how many of these will be called upon to testify against Ongwen.

Hebel told a press conference in Kampala this morning that ICC has put in place all risk assessment tools and necessary measures to ensure that witnesses are safe. This also includes moving witnesses away from the areas where they live and as a last resort, away from the country.

Dominic Ongwen, the former commander of the Sinia Brigade, faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The confirmed charges concern crimes allegedly committed during attacks in Pajule IDP camp in October 2003, Odek IDP camp on April 2004, Lukodi IDP camp on May 2004, and Abok IDP camps in June 2004.

They also cover sexual and gender-based crimes directly and indirectly committed by Dominic Ongwen and crimes of conscription and use in hostilities of children under the age of 15 allegedly committed in northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005.

Ongwen was surrendered to the ICC on 16 January 2015 pursuant to an ICC warrant of arrest and transferred to the ICC custody on 21 January 2015.

The trial will be conducted by Trial Chamber IX, a panel composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt from Germany, Judge Peter Kovacs from Hungary and Judge Raul C. Pangalangan from Philippines.