Ongwen Yet to Choose Country for His Jail Term

Former Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army – LRA, Dominic Ongwen is yet to make a formal submission to the Presidency of the International Criminal Court – ICC of a preferred country where he will be serving his 25-years’ jail sentence.

This was disclosed by Dahirou Sant-Anna, the International Cooperation Adviser in the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC while addressing journalists at Hotel Africana on Friday.

Dahirou explained that the Presidency is one of the four organs of ICC that makes the decision on the location where the convicted person would go. Before making the decision the Presidency would consider a request submitted by the convict of his or her country of choice.

Further, Dahirou told journalists that representatives of the victims and the prosecution team would also be able to provide their submissions on how to enforce the sentence which is done through willing state parties that have signed agreement with the ICC.

There are 123 possible country destinations including Uganda which are state parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC on 1 July 2002 following a diplomatic conference held in Rome, Italy on 17 July 1998.  They include; Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chad, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, DRC, Ireland, Liberia, Nigeria, Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Venezuela and Tanzania among others.

Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in jail on 6th, May, 2021 by the ICC’s Trial Chamber IX after being convicted on 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes were committed in Northern Uganda between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2005.

Among the war crimes and crimes against humanity comprised murder and attempted murder; rape; sexual slavery; forced marriage; torture; enslavement; conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities; pillaging; destruction of property and persecution, among others.

Following the sentence, Ongwen’s defence lawyers led by Krispus Ayena Odongo raised a total of 90 grounds of appeal against the conviction and 11 grounds against the sentencing. But the Appeals Chamber on 15th, December 2022, confirmed the decisions of Trial Chamber IX on Ongwen’s guilt and sentence.

Notably, on 24th, November, 2022, ICC Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan filed a request before the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the Court seeking authorization to hold a hearing on the confirmation of charges against Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA in his absence.

According to Dahirou, judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the Court are yet to pronounce themselves on the matter. Once the judges authorize the process, the Court will appoint a legal counsel that will represent Kony during the hearing of confirmation of the charges.

Hearing of confirmation of charges is anticipated to be a breaking ground for a renewed hunt for fugitive Kony, mobilize more resources and rally more concerted effort by state parties to apprehend Kony, who the US Government has levied 18 billion Shillings bounty on his head to face justice.

Kony, the LRA Chief is expected to face more charges. The ICC issued an arrest warrant against him in 2005 alongside four others who included; Ongwen, Okot Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya, and Vincent Otti.

Charges against Odhiambo and Lukwiya have since been dropped after they were put out of action and their DNA confirmed. However, Otti’s arrest warrant still stands as his purported death is yet to be confirmed by the Court.

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