Justice Update – Ongwen ICC Appeal Reactions

Valerie Oosterveld (top left), Steph and Janet, producer Margherita Capacci (top right), Alix Vuillemin (middle left), Louise Arimatsu (centre), Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum (middle right), James Onono Ojok (bottom left), Alexandra Lily Kather (bottom middle) and Lorraine Smith-van Lin (bottom right)

Change of style for this week’s heated commentary on the Appeal Chamber judgement in the Ongwen case at the International Criminal Court. A ‘panoply’ (Janet’s beloved word) of lawyers, activists, on-the-ground observers, and amici of the court, the groups advising the court on specific issues, came together to collectively assess the meaning of the judgement. 

On December 15, the Appeal Chamber rejected all the counts of the Defence and confirmed the 2021 sentence that found Dominic Ongwen guilty of 61 crimes against humanity and war crimes committed as senior Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander in Northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005. We previously covered the verdict and explored how victim communities were reacting. This is the first case of a child soldier being tried at the ICC and the first time the court looked at the crime of forced marriage as other inhuman acts of crimes against humanity. 

So lot to discuss at this turning point for international justice. Joining us in order of appearance:

Alix Vuillemin, Advocacy Director at Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice 

Louise Arimatsu, Distinguished Policy Fellow in the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics

Valerie Oosterveld, Professor of Law at the Western University

Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum,  Associate Professor of Clinical Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Alexandra Lily Kather, co-founder Emergent Justice Collective

James Onono Ojok , Poet, and working in Public Relations at Gulu University

Lorraine Smith-van Lin, Director of SmithvanLin Consultancy and Founder of Tallawah Justice for Women.

In acknowledging how far the court has gone on gender crimes, our guests discuss the gaps that we still have to face. The issue of sexual slavery and enslavement and how to address the crimes committed against ‘ting ting’ girls (the term used in the LRA for pre-pubescent girls who did house chores and babysat for commanders) and children born of war. We also discuss how intersectionality and post-colonialism played out in these crimes.

And joining us from Gulu, James Onono Ojok shares his view on the importance of this verdict for the victims but also for those survivors left out. Together with Lorraine Smith-van Lin, he also addresses the next big step in the case and one that is crucial for victims – reparations. 

In leaving you to the Christmas holidays we asked our guests for their reading and watching recommendations, and they did not disappoint.