Ongwen’s Lawyer Challenges Former LRA Abductee’s Account
By Wairagala Wakabi–International Justice Monitor
Dominic Ongwen’s lawyers at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday challenged the account that a former abductee of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels made regarding an attack on a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Defense lawyer Charles Achaleke Taku alleged that there were contradictions between the statement the witness made to Ugandan police in 2004 and her testimony in court about the attack.
Testifying for the prosecution under the pseudonym Witness P-18, the former abductee said she was part of the group of LRA fighters who attacked the IDP camp at Lukodi and the army detachment at the same location. She said she was not armed during the attack but went along with the fighters to carry food back to the guerrillas’ hideouts.
Asked by Taku which commander led her unit in the May 2004 attack on Lukodi, the witness said she could not recall the commander’s name.
Taku then told the witness that according to her statement to investigators in April 2004, an LRA commander known as Olak Tulu did not participate in the Lukodi attack. However, last May she made another statement to prosecution investigators that Tulu ordered LRA fighters to take cover when government forces repulsed their attack on Lukodi.
“There were several commanders that came with us on that mission, [but] Tulu stayed behind in the [Sick] Bay,” she responded. She added that she did not know the name of the person who issued the order for them to take cover.
Taku then put it to the witness that “Tulu was indeed present; he led the attack.” But the witness insisted that this commander did not participate in the attack.
Taku then turned the number of casualties in the attack. “You [earlier] said one LRA soldier was killed and two sustained injuries, but in the statement you made to detectives of Uganda, you said four rebels were killed,” he said.
The witness responded: “Maybe the recording [of the statement] was not correctly done because what I saw is what I said.”
“How many rebels were killed, one or four?” asked the defense lawyer.
Witness P-18 responded that she would “go with what I said earlier on.” Asked to clarify her answer, the witness said she would not respond to the question because she had already answered it.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt then intervened and asked Witness P-18 to tell the court how many LRA fighters were killed.
“Now, I cannot recall because it has been a long period of time … I can say something which may not be correct,” responded the witness.
Yesterday, Witness P-18 said that before the attack on the Lukodi IDP camp, Ongwen instructed LRA fighters to kill whoever they found on the road because locals in the area had become “stubborn.” Ongwen faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the attack on Lukodi, as well as three other IDP camps in Abok, Odek, and Pajule. He has also been charged with sexual crimes and conscription of child soldiers.