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LRA's Ongwen may be tried in Gulu - ICC

Dominic Ongwen at ICC

The trial against former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, Dominic Ongwen could carried out in Gulu, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said.

Ongwen is facing three counts of crimes against humanity, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering and four counts of war crimes carried out in Uganda and the Central Africa Republic (CAR).

Maria Kamara Kabinti, the outreach coordinator of ICC says the proposal and decision was reached at by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Ongwen's lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo.

She says both parties agreed on Wednesday, July 15, that the most desirable location for the confirmation of charges should be Gulu because of its proximity to the victims of the Lukodi massacre carried out on May 16, 2004, in which Ongwen is believed to have actively participated. Over sixty people were brutally murdered and several abducted on that day.

Kamara, however, notes that Ongwen's hearing in Uganda is subject to key issues such as security, costs and impact of bringing the court closer to the people.

On June 29, 2015 the trial chamber directed the prosecution and the defense to provide their views on the possibility of holding the confirmation hearing in Uganda by July 13, 2015.
The chamber also ordered the ICC registrar to provide an assessment of the possibility of holding the confirmation hearing in Uganda by July 27, 2015.

"[A hearing in Gulu] will increase the visibility of the court and making the process more accessible to the victims and affected communities that have suffered as a result of the alleged crimes by Dominic Ongwen by which he is at ICC. The defence also emphasised that it will create an opportunity for victims not only in Gulu but in other parts of Uganda particularly in Acholi sub-region to attend this process live and see how justice is being carried out at ICC.", Kamara said.

She says, the registrar who is in charge of administrative and non-judicial functions of the court has up to July 23 to present a full report on the possibility of the court sitting in Uganda.

According to Kamara, survivors of the Lukodi massacre have been pushing for the trial to be brought closer to them. Vincent Oyet, the secretary of the Lukodi massacre says bringing the trial home will offer satisfaction to the victims.

Krispus Ayena Odong couldn't be reached for comment as he didn't pick our calls. Earlier attempts by the ICC to try ex-DRC militia commander Bosco Ntaganda in his home county hit a dead end due to high costs and feasibility challenges.

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