ICC oks Dominic Ongwen hearings in Gulu

Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has recommended to the ICC Presidency that the hearing on the confirmation of charges against Dominic Ongwen, be held in Gulu.

The ICC Presidency will now consult with the Ugandan authorities and make a decision on this matter, in consultation with the Pre-Trial Chamber, in due course, according to a statement released on Thursday.

“The confirmation of charges hearing in respect of Ongwen is scheduled to commence on 21 January 2015 and is expected to last three to no more than five working days,” the statement said.

“The confirmation of charges hearing is not a trial. It is a Pre-Trial hearing held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the case for trial before a Trial Chamber.”

The Chamber considers that it would be desirable and in the interest of justice to hold the confirmation of charges hearing in Uganda, preferably in Gulu as this location is the closest to the location of the alleged crimes, or alternatively in Kampala. Also, the Chamber is of the view that the hearing on the confirmation of charges is well suited to achieve the ultimate purpose of holding proceedings away from the seat of the Court, as it is a short, self-contained, discrete procedural step. In addition, the Chamber considers that the estimated costs of organising the confirmation of charges hearing in Uganda do not appear disproportionate.

Prior to making this recommendation, the Chamber received an assessment of the ICC Registry as to the possibility of holding the confirmation of charges hearing in Uganda, as well as submissions of the Office of the Prosecutor and the Defence both in favour of attempting to bring the Court’s process closer to the communities affected by the alleged crimes.

Pursuant to Rule 100 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, where the Court considers that it would be in the interests of justice, it may decide to sit in a State other than the host State, for such period or periods as may be required, to hear the case in whole or in part.

Background: Dominic Ongwen was the alleged Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). On 8 July 2005, ICC Judges issued an arrest warrant against Mr Ongwen for 3 counts of crimes against humanity (murder; enslavement; inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering) and 4 counts of war crimes (murder; cruel treatment of civilians; intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population; pillaging) allegedly committed on or about 20 May 2004 at the Lukodi IDP Camp in the Gulu District. On 16 January 2015, Dominic Ongwen was surrendered to the ICC’s custody and transferred to the ICC Detention Centre on 21 January 2015. His initial appearance before the Court took place on 26 January 2015.
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