Special Reports

UPDF Soldiers Subjected Me to Forced Labour – Witness Tells ICC

A picture of Updf soldiers

The trial of Dominic Ongwen continued on Wednesday, 04 October 2017, with the testimony of the 37th Prosecution witness, Witness P-0081.

Appearing through video link before the Court, Witness P-0081 was provided protective measures of face distortion as well as recourse to private sessions during his testimony.

As a former LRA abductee, Witness P-0081 testified about the Pajule IDP camp and the related 10 October 2003 attack, the structure of the LRA, and his experience in relation to the UPDF before and after the abduction.

Questioning of Witness P-0081 by the OTP

Pursuant to Rule 68, Witness P-0081 was presented with a previous statement he gave to OTP investigators back in 2005.

In responding to the questions posed by OTP Senior Trial Lawyer Benjamin Gumpert, the witness recognized that statement as his own and stated he has no objection for it to be used as evidence in the case against Dominic Ongwen before the ICC.

Nevertheless, guided by the questioning of the OTP, the witness made clarifications on his original 2005 testimony, some of which were made in private session.

While in public session, Witness P-0081 was asked how orders were given to the LRA groups sent to attack Omoro, to what he answered “the commander […] he gave them instructions […] well, I do not know how he got the instructions, but I saw when these people arrived, I saw him talking to them and when they departed”.

Questioning of Witness P-0081 by the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV)

Later on, Witness P-0081 was interrogated by the Principal Counsel of the OPCV, Paolina Massidda, in relation to how life was for him before his abduction, while in the bush and after his escape.

“Before the Pajule attack I had a good life. I had a job, I was employed because I was a builder”, he stated.

When asked about how his family was affected by his abduction, he explained that “my family had been saddened by the news they received that I had been killed by a bomb; until the day I came back they believed I was dead”.

Witness P-0081 testified that because of his abduction he is no longer able to carry out the tasks he did before as a construction worker.

Lastly, in relation to his wishes for the future, he testified that “I would like to be successful; I would also like my children to be educated so that they could also be successful […]”.

Questioning of Witness P-0081 by the Defence

During the examination conducted by Defence Legal Assistant Thomas Obhof, Witness P-0081 answered questions regarding the organization of the Pajule IDP camp, the attack on that same camp on 10 October 2003, the structure of the LRA and his experience with the UPDF before and after his abduction.

In describing the Pajule IDP camp, the witness testified that there were military barracks on a land “belonging to a religious mission […] on the Lapul side [of the camp]”.

According to the witness, some “old barracks” were also located “on the Pajule side” and were “used for distribution of food”.

In addition, Witness P-0081 stated that at the time of the 10 October 2003 attack, soldiers would “also” stay in the barracks at the Lapul side, and that “close” to the barracks people “built up houses”.

He also confirmed having seen bombs stationed at the military barracks.

Furthermore, Witness P-0081 testified that because the attack on the Pajule IDP camp happened shortly after the Ugandan Independence Day festivities, he thought at first that the reason why there were gunshots was that “drunken” government soldiers were in a “festive mood”, firing their guns “for happiness”.

The witness said he later realised “it wasn’t them”.

In relation to the LRA structure, Witness P-0081 also testified that Acel Calo Apar was an LRA commander who was “among those” who attacked Pajule.

Additionally, he testified that Otti was the general commander of the attack, because “all orders come from him and all reports were sent to him”.

In responding the question posed by the Defence, the witness referred to Vincent Otti as “Lapwony Madit” and said that “Lapwony Madit” was who he considered “more senior” in the LRA; “In every group there’s someone who’s always Lapwony Madit”, he added later.

In addition, when asked who made some of the LRA rules dealing with women, stones and water, the witness answered “They told me that it was Lapwony Madit”.

Witness P-0081 also confirmed that Acel Calo Apar “never told him” that Sinia brigade was part of the attack on Pajule or to which group Ongwen belonged to in the LRA.

Regarding his experience with the UPDF before his abduction, Witness P-0081 testified that UPDF military vehicles called “Mambas” sometimes fired into civilian villages without aiming at any particular individual; “When the government receives information that rebels are coming from some direction, and when they are shown the direction, they would just shoot in that direction without even seeing them”, he explained.

On the other hand, Witness P-0081 informed the Court that, after his escape from the LRA, some UPDF soldiers “kept asking him” for “quite some number of days” to become a soldier and join the UPDF.

He explained that “there was no payment” for the work he did while at the UPDF barracks, and that a UPDF soldier told him that if he escaped from the barracks they would “come and look for you” back home.

“I felt threatened. It made me think twice that if I escape- it made me remember that if you escape from the bush they would come and look for you […] I feared and I continued staying there”.

Witness P-0081 also stated that for about “3 or 4 weeks” in the hands of the UPDF his family “was not aware” that he was alive.

Finally, when asked whether he was made aware of any formal mechanism to complain for how he was being treated by the UPDF, the witness answered “No”.

The trial in the case of Dominic Ongwen will resume next Thursday, 05 October 2017, with the testimony of Witness P-0256.

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