Trial Chamber IX has rejected the Defence’s request for leave to appeal the Chamber’s previous decision on Ongwen’s understanding of the nature of the charges, in the case of The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen. This decision comes after Ongwen, at the opening of his trial on 6 December 2016, indicated that he did not understand the charges being brought against him – following which the Trial Chamber issued an oral decision finding that it is satisfied that Mr Ongwen understood the nature of the charges.
The Defence subsequently filed a leave to appeal this oral decision; raising the issue of whether the Trial Chamber was permitted to rely on Ongwen’s historical statements as the main basis of determining his understanding of the charges. In its rejection of this Defence request, the Trial Chamber corrected the Defence’s contention that the Chamber had used Ongwen’s prior statement as the “major basis” for its findings – pointing out that it took multiple other factors into consideration in assessing Ongwen’s understanding of the charges, including “the information provided to the accused after the issuance of the decision on the confirmation of the charges, the submissions and arguments made by the Defence in the course of the proceedings, the lack of sufficient substantiation for Defence’s allegations and, importantly, the accused’s statement made before the Chamber just prior to the issuance of the Impugned Decision.”
On this basis, the issue identified by the Defence was not found to arise from the substance of the Trial Chamber’s previous decision, thus is not an appealable issue pursuant to Article 82(1)(d) of the Rome Statute. (ICC TC Decision)
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