TIMELINE: LRA’s Dominic Ongwen Trial Begins this Week in the Hague

Close to two years after taking him into detention, unhealthy the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to begin trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, information pills Dominic Ongwen for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The trial of Dominic Ongwen, cheapest who was abducted as a child and later became a senior LRA commander, will begin on December 6, 2016, in The Hague.

The charges will be read, followed by opening statements from the prosecution and lawyers who represent several thousand victims involved in the case. The trial will then adjourn until January 16, 2017, when the prosecution will begin to present its evidence.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda, where the group originated.

Charges center on alleged crimes in 2003 and 2004 during attacks on people in four camps for internally displaced  – Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi – including murder, torture, enslavement, persecution, and pillage.

Charges also include sexual and gender-based crimes and the conscription and use of child soldiers in northern Uganda from 2002 to 2005.

Led by the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA has committed atrocities against civilians for nearly three decades.

The armed group has abducted tens of thousands of children for use as soldiers and sexual slaves, and killed and maimed thousands of civilians in remote regions of northern Uganda, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

The court issued warrants in July 2005 for Ongwen and four other LRA commanders, including Kony, who remains at large. The three other suspects are believed to have been killed in recent years.

Charges are pending against another LRA fighter, Thomas Kwoyelo, before Uganda’s International Crimes Division of the High Court. That trial is expected to open in the coming months.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch described the trial of Ongwen at the ICC as ‘significant’ in bringing to justice a rebel group that has wreaked havoc on the African continent.

For the opening, the ICC will have “viewing sites” in the four locations in northern Uganda where the alleged crimes occurred, as well as in Gulu, the largest town in the region, and Coorom, the area near where Ongwen is from. The ICC will also bring local community leaders from Uganda to The Hague to observe the opening, with support from the Danish government.

More than 4,100 people are “victim participants” in the Ongwen trial, represented by two sets of lawyers.

Victim participation at the ICC is an innovative feature of international justice that allows victims, through their legal representatives, to contribute to the proceedings,
separately from testifying as witnesses.

Participation may include questioning witnesses and making submissions on legal and factual subjects.

During the trial, Ongwen will be entitled to protections to ensure the fairness of the proceedings and his rights as an accused. These include the right to a lawyer and the presumption of innocence.


March 1999: Uganda signs the Rome Statute which established the ICC

June 2002: Uganda ratifies the Rome Statute becoming a state party to ICC

December 2003: Uganda refers the situation concerning northern Uganda to the Office of ICC Prosecutor

July 2004: ICC opens an investigation into the events in northern Uganda

May 2005: Prosecutor submits requests for warrants of arrest for Joseph Kony, Vincent Otto, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen

July 2005: ICC requests Uganda to search for, arrest, detain and surrender to Court Joseph Kony, Vincent Otto, Raska Lukwiya and Dominic Ongwen

January 2015: Dominic Ongwen surrenders to the Ugandan army and is transferred to ICC Detention Centers in Hague (Netherlands) and makes initial appearance in court

January 2016: Confirmation of charges hearing for Dominic Ongwen at ICC

March 2016: Pre-Trial Chamber II of ICC confirms charges brought by Prosecutor against Ongwen

May 2016: Presidency of ICC constitutes Trial Chamber IX to take charge of the case

December 2016: Opening of the trial


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