A third prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has told Judges that the LRA rebel commander was once caned 200 times for defying leader Joseph Kony’s orders.
Witness P-016 was narrating what happened to Ongwen as an example of one of the kinds of various punishments a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels received if they disobeyed an order given by Kony.
The witness was answering questions from Ongwen’s lead defence lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, during cross-examination.
Ongwen, faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity which he allegedly committed on people displaced by LRA conflict in Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi camps. Prosecution says the crimes were committed between 2003 and 2004 when Ongwen was a battalion commander and then a brigade commander in the LRA.
Other charges against Ongwen include forcibly marrying seven women when they were girls and committing sexual crimes against them.
“If I recall what happened to Dominic Ongwen when he went away from the group, he was arrested. He was given 200 strokes of the cane,” the witness said in private session.
Mr Odongo asked the witness what would be the consequence for defying an order from Kony and witness P-016 responded that: “If you fail to follow Kony’s instructions, you are jailed. That is what happens. That is what I know”.
The hearing on Wednesday took place in a private session because witness P-016 was testifying under in-court protective measures, which include portions of his testimony being closed to the public for fear of being identified.
The public only knows the witness by his pseudonym, and his face is distorted in broadcasts to the public. He is not visible from the public gallery. A private session in the ICC means the audio to the public gallery is switched off even though those in the gallery can still see the judges, lawyers, and court staff.
Witness P-016 who will continue testifying today is a former LRA radio operator. He added that in the bush it was Kony who gave orders and if Kony was not there, then his deputy, Vincent Otti, would give orders.
The witness also testified that it was Otti who issued the order to attack Lukodi camp. He says he heard this over the radio but claimed he did not know who gave the orders for the attacks on Pajule, Odek and Abok.