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Lawyer urges ICC to acquit Ugandan war criminal on appeal

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A lawyer for a Ugandan rebel commander serving a 25-year sentence for dozens of war crimes and crimes against humanity told appeals judges Monday that his client had was found guilty by an investigative committee of the International Criminal Court that cherry-picked evidence to ensure he was convicted.

Prosecution lawyers responded that Dominic Ongwen had been ‘correctly and fairly convicted’ after an exhaustive trial which heard testimony from 179 witnesses for both prosecution and defense and assessed over 5,000 pieces of evidence .

Defense lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo was speaking on the first day of an appeal hearing at the world tribunal for Ongwen, who was convicted last year on 61 counts for his role as top commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the shadowy Ugandan rebel group led by a fugitive. warlord Joseph Kony.

In May, judges sentenced Ongwen to 25 years for a litany of crimes including murder, rape, forced marriage, forced pregnancy and using child soldiers.

But Odongo demands his acquittal and release, arguing that Ongwen did not get a fair hearing.

“The court of first instance did not base its decision and judgment on the whole procedure. The trial chamber decided to pick and choose what was helpful to make sure they got their conviction,” Odongo told a five-judge appeal panel that is expected to take months to issue its decision after public hearings. from this week.

“It seems the court came with a predetermined mind to convict Dominic Ongwen,” he added.

Ongwen’s lawyers listed 90 grounds of appeal alleging legal, factual and procedural errors in the initial verdict, presiding judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza said at the opening of the hearing on Monday.

Prosecution attorney Helen Brady said there was little in the defense appeal that had not already been decided at trial.

“Mr. Ongwen has extensively repeated his trial arguments, but he fails to demonstrate that the trial chamber erred in law, fact or procedure. His appeal must be dismissed and his convictions upheld,” she said.

Throughout his trial, Ongwen’s defense lawyers described him as a victim of LRA brutality – abducted on his way to school at the age of 9 and traumatized by his experiences in the group’s violent insurrection.

Odongo said on Monday that after his abduction he was essentially enslaved by Kony.

“He provided slave labor and therefore he should not be punished twice,” he told the judges.

Founded by Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army began as an anti-government rebellion in Uganda. When the army forced the group out of Uganda in 2005, the rebels dispersed to parts of central Africa.

Kony remains on the run despite concerted efforts to find him. His case gained international notoriety in 2012 when US advocacy group Invisible Children made a video highlighting LRA crimes that went viral.