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In 2006, The Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army commenced peace talks to end the conflict in Northern Uganda. In June 2007, the GoU and the LRA signed an, annexure to the final peace Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation, which required the Government to establish both formal and non-formal justice mechanisms to address accountability and reparations for atrocities committed in Northern Uganda.

In line with the Juba Peace Agreement calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms for crimes perpetrated during the conflict, the Government of Uganda established the War Crimes Division in 2008, now the International Crimes Division of the High Court, to try individuals suspected of committing war crimes in the country.

 

What is the International Crimes Division?

The ICD is a special division of the High Court, a national Court established in 2008, under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.  Originally, it was called the War Crimes Division. The International Crimes Division is not an international court. The ICD is not the International Criminal Court (ICC), or a branch of the International Criminal Court.

 

Where is the International Crimes Division located?

The headquarters is in Kampala, at Plot 8 Mabua Road, Kololo. The court may also sit in any other place in Uganda as the Chief Justice and the Principal Judge may decide.  

 

What kind of crimes will the International Crimes Division handle?  

The International Crimes Division deals jurisdiction over serious international crimes  as prescribed in  the Practice Directions of the ICD (Legal Notice No. 10 of 2011, gazetted 31 May 2011) these include; any offence relating to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, and any other crimes as prescribed by Law.

What laws can be applied by the International Crimes Division? 

The ICD shall apply the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Geneva Conventions Act of 1964, the Penal Code Act Cap 120, and the International Criminal Court Act of 2010, governing international crimes, and any other relevant law. 

 

How many judges are there in the International Crimes Division? 

There are five Judges appointed to the ICD. They sit in a panel of three Judges at the war crimes proceedings. There is a Head of the Division and Deputy Head of Division. 

 

Which institution is responsible for bringing charges before the International Crimes Division? 

The Director of Public Prosecutions, on behalf of the people of Uganda, according to the Constitution of Uganda (Art. 120(3), of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda)

 The functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are the following—

(a) to direct the police to investigate any information of a criminal nature and to report to him or her expeditiously;

(b) to institute criminal proceedings against any person or authority in any court with competent jurisdiction other than a court martial;

(c) to take over and continue any criminal proceedings instituted by any other person or authority;

(d) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered, any criminal proceedings to which this article relates, instituted by himself or herself or any other person or authority; except that the Director of Public Prosecutions shall not discontinue any proceedings commenced by another person or authority except with the consent of the court.

 

What is the lifespan of the International Crimes Division?  

It is a permanent division of the High Court of Uganda.

 

Is the International Crimes Division the same as the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

No. The International Crimes Division is a Division of the High Court of Uganda. The ICC is an International Court, based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The two courts complement each other. 

 

What is the International Criminal Court? 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international court that handles cases dealing with serious international crimes, specifically the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002. Uganda ratified and domesticated the Rome Statute in June 2010 by enacting the International Criminal Court Act 2010, meaning that it is obliged to respect the obligations in this treaty. Specifically, Uganda has the duty to prosecute the listed crimes where they are committed in its territory. If Uganda is unable or unwilling to do so, the International Criminal Court may bring charges against offenders of such crimes, especially when the offenses were committed in Uganda after 2002.

For more information about the International Criminal Court, see www.icc-cpi.int

 

What is the maximum punishment for a war crimes case?

The maximum penalty under the Geneva Conventions Act is life imprisonment for grave breaches of wilful killing. 

 

What are grave breaches under the Geneva Conventions Act? 

‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions are serious crimes committed in the context of an armed conflict. ‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions is a term used to denote the seriousness of the offenses. The Geneva conventions defines grave breaches as crimes: “involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.  ‘Grave breaches’ constitute war crimes, which are also prohibited under the Rome Statute of the ICC.

 

What is the role of the International Crimes Division?  

The role of the International Crimes Division is to hear the evidence presented by the Prosecution and any case presented by the Defence to raise serious doubt about the Prosecution case, and then to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. 

 

What is the role of the registry of the International Crimes Division?

The registry provides administrative support to the International Crimes Division and coordinates all aspects of the trial. The Registrar heads the registry.

 

What is the role of Prosecutors?

Prosecutors guide the police in investigating a crime. If Prosecutors think there is sufficient evidence to prove that someone committed a crime, they institute a criminal case in a court. At trial, Prosecutors try to convince Judges that the accused committed the crimes. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  

 

What is the role of the CID(Criminal Investigations Department)

The CID investigates the cases, summon witnesses at the hearing stage, produce exhibits in Court, and Testify as investigators in the case. 

 

What is the role of the Defence?

The Defence speaks on behalf of the accused. They also try to convince the Judges that the accused did not commit the crimes and help ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.

 

What is the role of the Prisons Service?

The prisons service detains the accused in legally recognised places of detention, in good conditions and in accordance with accepted standards. The prisons produce the accused before courts as and when required. On acquittal, the prisons release the accused and on conviction, the prisons undertake to rehabilitate the accused. 

 

Will the prosecution and defence witnesses be protected? 

Yes. Measures are in place to ensure the safety of witnesses.

 

What kind of protection measures can be provided to witnesses? 

Protection measures that exist include; physical protection, internal relocation, external relocation, change of witness contacts. Other include protection of the witness’ identity, including withholding names from the press, shielding witnesses’ faces during testimony, and presenting sensitive testimony in closed court sessions. These measures can apply before, during, and after the trial. 

 

What remedies are available to victims at the end of a trial? 

Upon conviction of an accused, courts may order the accused to pay compensation or provide other remedies to victims. According to Article 50 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Any person, who claims that a fundamental or other right or freedom guaranteed under this Constitution has been infringed or threatened, is entitled to apply to a competent court for redress which may include compensation.

 

What kinds of evidence can be used by the Prosecution and Defence in criminal trials?

Evidence can include:

  • Testimony of witnesses in court
  • Written documents
  • Video recordings
  • Scientific reports and forensic evidence
  • Post mortem reports
  • Photographs
  • Clinical notes 

 

Who can be a witness in criminal trials?

Any Person who has information relevant to the trial. 

 

How can victims participate in criminal trials?

Current practice in Uganda is that victims can participate as witnesses if called by the Prosecution or defense to help the court decide whether the accused is guilty or not. Victims can also attend the hearings as members of the public. 

 

Can decisions of the International Crimes Division be appealed? 

Yes, to the Court of Appeal. 

 

How long do war-crimes trials last?  

Depending on how complex the case is and how many witnesses will testify, war crimes trials can take many months to conclude. There is no time limit; however, trials must be conducted without undue delay. 

 

Where can I get more information about the Kwoyelo case and the International Crimes Division?

One can get information from the JLOS website at www.jlos.go.ug or the Judiciary Website at www.judicature.go.ug  

 

What is the contact information of the International Crimes Division?

Please contact the ICD at www.judicature.go.ug

 

What role do NGOs, cultural leaders and other civil-society groups play in war-crimes cases at the International Crimes Division?  

They can play different roles. Examples include the dissemination of information about  the case, appearing as witnesses if called by one of the parties or the court, and Supporting victims and witnesses. They are also partners and stakeholders in the  administration of Justice. 

 

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Frequently Asked Questions on the Thomas Kwoyelo Trial

 

Published in Transitional Justice
Thursday, 04 February 2016 17:59

Dominic Ongwen ICC Pre-Trial: FAQ

 

Dominic Ongwen is a former second-in-command to Joseph Kony, within the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was surrendered to the Seleka rebels at the Central African Republic –South Sudan border in January 2015.  He is now in custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Who is Dominic Ongwen?

Mr. Ongwen is an adult Ugandan allegedly born in 1975 in Amuru District, in northern Uganda.  He admits he is a former commander of the LRA and that he was abducted around the age of 14 years. 

 

What crimes is Dominic Ongwen accused of committing? 

Mr. Ongwen is accused of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

Specifically, there are 70 charges against Dominic Ongwen – 34 crimes against humanity and 36 war crimes, as follows:;

  • 10 charges concern crimes committed in the Pajule IDP camp;
  • 13 charges concern crimes in the Odek IDP camp;
  • 13 charges concern crimes in the Lukodi IDP camp;
  • 13 charges concern crimes related to a 2004 attack on the Abok IDP camp;
  • 8 charges concern sexual and gender based crimes; 
  • 2 charges concern crimes of conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate in hostilities; and 
  • 11 other charges are confidential and have not been disclosed for the security of witnesses.

 

What are war crimes and crimes against humanity?

The Rome Statute provides for the laws under which Dominic Ongwen is being charged; these are but are not limited to;

Crimes against humanity include, but are not limited to:

  • Murder;
  • Extermination;
  • Enslavement;
  • Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
  • Torture;
  • Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
  • Enforced disappearance of persons; and
  • The crime of apartheid

These crimes MUST have been committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.

War crimes are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, 

which include but are not limited to:

  • Wilful killing  of civilians; 
  • Taking of hostages;
  • Extensive destruction of property;
  • Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; and 
  • Torture or inhumane treatment. 

War crimes also include other serious violations of laws and customs, within the framework of international law which entail acts committed during international and non-international armed conflicts. Such war crimes specifically include;

  • Intentional attacks against the civilian population not taking direct part in the hostilities;
  • Attacking or bombarding  by whatever means, tons, villages, dwellings or buildings undefended and which are not military objects;
  • Killing or wounding treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army;
  • Committing rape, sexual slavery,  enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy; and
  • Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities. 

*Please note that the list above is not exhaustive but illustrative.

 

When and where were the alleged crimes committed? 

The charges against Mr. Ongwen are for crimes committed in Northern Uganda, from 2002, specifically in the Districts of Lira, Apac, Pader, Gulu, Kitgum, Soroti, Katakwi and Kaberamaido.  

 

Which court will try Dominic Ongwen?

The ICC will try Mr. Ongwen. The Court is a permanent institution that has the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern and it is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions.

The ICC has the power to try crimes committed only after it was established, or crimes committed after 1st July 2002.   He was one of the 5 persons indicted by the ICC who were to be tried once captured.  Of the Five, three of them; Vincent Otti (formerly Second in Command of the LRA), Raska Lukwiya, and Okot Odhiambo have been confirmed dead. Only Joseph Kony remains at large.

 

When did the trial against Mr. Ongwen start? 

Mr. Ongwen is the first LRA member to appear before the ICC. While some preliminary hearings have been held, Mr. Ongwen’s trial has not yet begun. In fact, the ICC had a hearing to confirm charges made against him from 21st January 2016 to 27th January 2016.

 

What does Confirmation of Charges mean?

According to the Article 61(1) of Rome Statute, the Pre- Trial Chamber must hold, holds a hearing to confirm the charges on which the prosecution intends to seek trial.

In other words, confirmation of charges is a process to determine whether or not Mr. Ongwen has a case to answer.  After this determination is made, he can be released if there is no case or he can be further detained for trial, if there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe he committed any one of the counts alleged.

 

When will the trial begin?

The trial will only begin if the Judges in the Pre-Trial Chamber decide that Mr.Ongwen has a case to answer before the ICC. Once the ICC has made public the confirmation of charges decision, a date will be set for full trial. This will be determined within 60 days of 27th January 2016.

 

Will the trial be open to the public? 

Yes, in normal circumstances. For members of the public who cannot be in the ICC courtroom in the Hague, Netherlands, because of limited space, alternative viewing arrangements will have been organised outside the courtroom.  Weekly updates as well as video footage of public trials (with a 30 minute delay) are available at the ICC website: www.icc-cpi.int.

 

Does Dominic Ongwen have a lawyer?

Yes, he has Mr. Krispus Odongo Ayena, a Ugandan Lawyer, to lead his defence team and has also been represented by duty counsel in the pre-trial hearings.  The defence team consists of four members, including legal assistants.  

 

Who makes up the prosecution?

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is one of the four organs of the ICC and is headed by Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor, who took office on 15 June 2012. 

The Office Investigates and Prosecutes genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by nationals of a State Party or on the territory of a State Party on or after 1 July 2002, the date of entry into force of the Rome Statute. This is the team responsible for proving Ongwen’s guilt.

 

What are the fair-trial rights of the accused?

Dominic Ongwen has the same as the rights of any other accused, guaranteed by Article 66 and 67 of the Rome Statute.  These include and are not limited to the following:

  • The presumption of innocence, until proven guilty;
  • The right to be informed about his case in the language he fully understands and speaks;
  • The right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his or her defence;
  • The right to be tried without undue delay;
  • The right to be present  in person at his or her trial;
  • The right to be afforded facilities to examine witnesses and to obtain the attendance of other witnesses before the court;
  • The right to have an interpreter without any cost; and
  • The right not to be compelled to confess guilt and to remain silent without such silence being considered in determination of his guilt or innocence.

 

 By Margaret Ajok, Advisor Transitional Justice (JLOS Secretariat) | Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information

 Published: February 4, 2016

Published in Transitional Justice

 

KAMPALA - The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Mrs Fatou Bensouda on February 27 2015 met the Deputy Attorney General and State for  Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon Fredrick Ruhindi. Hon. Ruhindi who represented the Attorney General who is out of the country on official duties was accompanied by a team comprising the Director of Public Prosecutions, Hon. Justice Mike Chibita, the Minster in Charge of Northern Uganda, Ms.  Amuge Rebecca Otengo,  the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amb. James Mugume, Commissioners and Directors and heads of departments at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Mrs Fatou Bensouda is in Uganda on 5-day working visit to provide updates on the activities of her office, in particular in relation to the case of Mr Dominic Ongwen, and discuss issues of mutual interests.

The Deputy Attorney General in his opening remarks thanked the ICC  Prosecutor for paying a visit to the Attorney General and noted that Uganda was committed to fighting impunity and ensuring accountability for international crimes - a gesture which was well stated with handover former LRA Commander Maj. Gen. Dominic Ongwen to the ICC.

He clarified misinformation by the press that stated that the Attorney General would offer legal representation to Dominic Ongwen at the ICC. Hon. Ruhindi emphasised that the state would not offer legal representation to Mr. Ongwen, a duty specifically mandated to the ICC.He also noted that the Amnesty Law is a major challenge in prosecuting international crimes nationally.  However, he informed the Prosecutor that Government was committed to addressing the issue through the Transitional Justice Policy framework, wherein conditional amnesties will be provided.

Hon. Ruhindi further noted the need for victim participation and reparations, which would all be addressed with the transitional justice legal framework. Clarity was also made on Uganda’s relations with the ICC and in this regard he noted that complementarity can be undertaken at national level and hence there is need to consider reforms at international level. He also noted that need to promote universal acceptance to the Rome Statue.

On her part, Ms Fatou Bensouda in her remarks thanked the Attorney General for convening the meeting and expressed sincere gratitude to the Government of Uganda for the cooperation it has shown from the time of referral of the case of Joseph Kony in 2005, to the time of surrender of Dominic Ongwen todate.

She admitted that she at first "worried about the transfer of Ongwen to the Hague, but was convinced about Uganda’s stance on accountability". Mrs Bensouda informed the meeting that the purpose of her visit was to highlight the importance of the trial phase, the need to gather more information on the case of Ongwen considering that the case had not been active since the warrants were issued in 2005 a the ICC’s responsibility, to make sure prosecutions are effective.

She informed the Attorney General on the next steps towwards Ongwen's trial which include;

  1. Consideration of possibilities of investigating other crimes committed by Ongwen and hence prefer additional charges against him;
  2. An Application to the pre - trial chamber to have the case of Ongwen heard in January 2016;
  3. Visiting of the affected communities in the Northern Uganda;
  4. Deployment of an ICC investigative team in Uganda that will need assistance for the Ugandan counterparts.
  5. Making a specific request to share information with Uganda

In her concluding remarks, the ICC  Prosecutor noted that there is need for the Government of Uganda to assist in witness protection. She also highlighted that cooperation will be important for the successful prosecution by the ICC.

 

Fatou Bensouda Fact File

Mrs. Fatou Bensouda of The Gambia was elected by consensus Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties. Mrs. Bensouda was sworn in on 15 June 2012. Mrs. Bensouda had previously held the position of ICC Deputy Prosecutor (Prosecutions), having been elected with an overwhelming majority by the Assembly of States Parties on 8 August 2004 and serving as such until May 2012. Prior to her work at the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Bensouda worked as Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit.

 

 By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | February 27, 2015

 

 

Published in Latest News