Friday, 9 December 2016

Statement by Ugandan cultural, religious, community and civil society leaders attending the opening trial of Dominic Ongwen at the ICC in The Hague Netherlands – 5-8 December 2016 -

Statement by Ugandan cultural, religious, community and civil society leaders attending the opening trial of Dominic Ongwen at the ICC in The Hague Netherlands
– 5-8 December 2016 -

From 5 – 8 December, we attended the opening of the trial of Dominic Ongwen in The Hague, The Netherlands as representatives of our communities in Northern Uganda Led by His Highness Rwot David Onen Acana the Paramount Chief of Acholi, accompanied by Archbishop John Baptist Odama the Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, we not only had the opportunity to witness the commencement of the trial of Dominic Ongwen in the Court’s new premises but also met and exchanged ideas with representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC): Presidency and Chambers, Office of the Prosecutor, Registry, and the parties and participants involved in the trial of Dominic Ongwen.

Dominic Ongwen has come before the ICC for trial following an indictment for crimes against humanity and war crimes he is alleged to have committed as a senior commander of the LRA.
Over the years during and after the conflict in Northern Uganda, cultural, religious, community and civic leaders have been the centerpiece for peace and reconciliation. They were instrumental in the outcomes of the Juba peace process. Today, the case of Dominic Ongwen remains very important to us because it is a milestone in defining one way in the attempt to secure justice and accountability for the people of Northern Uganda, and ultimately to help people reconcile with their past and move towards peace.

As leaders and representatives of various groups and interests in the Acholi region, we note that various grave crimes were committed in Northern Uganda during the time the LRA was active in Uganda; the nature of the crimes committed violated traditional, Ugandan and international law and therefore warranted action against perpetrators in terms of securing justice for the victims and holding the perpetrators accountable. With the ICC process, we believe that matters related to such crimes will be adjudicated.

Beyond Dominic Ongwen’s specific case, the Acholi people still have to contend with the broader question of justice and accountability arising from the conflict. The fact that the LRA is still out there obliges us to remain focused on the broader issues of peace reconciliation, justice and accountability. Indeed other mechanisms do exist in Uganda that have been extensively used in handling matters relating to obtaining accountability from perpetrators and securing justice for victims in the LRA conflict, including the law in Uganda and the traditional law norms, values and practices of the Acholi people. Though mechanisms and certain definitions may differ, the Acholi justice system gives a broader context and definition to questions of accountability and justice which is hinged primarily on restorative justice other than a punitive one.

Since justice is a long process especially when it is searching for truth, we call upon our people to allow the judicial process and those who wish to testify to come and do so without any fear of reprisals. We also urge the international community and the Government of Uganda to remain focused on the wider question of transitional justice in Northern Uganda which remains largely unattended to and is grossly affecting many lives.

This trial is at its beginning and we hope to see it continue smoothly and be beneficial to the victims of Northern Uganda.

We express our gratitude to the Danish Embassy in Uganda for its financial assistance and to the ICC for having planned and coordinated the visit.   

Rwot David Onen Achana
Archbishop John Baptist Odama
Bishop Onono Onweng
Olaa Ambose
Innocent Olwoc
Patrick Sila Lakwonyero
Lino Owor Ogora
Betty Piloya
Esther Aol
Justine Ochan

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