As an international rather than national or local court, the International Criminal Court remains often inaccessible to communities most affected by the cases the Court hears.
One such case is the one of Dominc Ongwen, who is standing on trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, while affected communities are in Uganda.
Dominic Ongwen is an alleged Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerilla rebel group in Uganda headed by Joseph Rao Kony. The LRA inflicted horrific suffering on the people of a wide region of Central Africa, including South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as Uganda. Over the decades, the LRA was responsible for displacing thousands — only to later massacre them in their refugee camps. As an alleged senior commander for the LRA, Ongwen stands accused of being responsible for several of Uganda's worst massacres.
But the case is not clear cut. Ongwen himself was abducted as a boy by the LRA and used in the militia’s legion of children forced to fight. For his crimes, Ongwen stands to be the first former child soldier charged before the ICC. He is being accused of the same crimes that were committed against him.
On the other hand, Ongwen is the first LRA member who may finally be held accountable. Ongwen is detained by the ICC and charged with 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed in northern Uganda.
The ICC investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals who have been charged with the gravest crimes to the international community, such as war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The Court takes part in the fight to end impunity and aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes as well as to help prevent these crimes from recurring through the use of international criminal justice. The ICC is governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute.
PeaceGeeks partnered with the ICC to bridge the distance between the Court and communities affected by alleged crimes. In the context of this trial, we strived to help the ICC create awareness and engage local communities in the ongoing Ongwen trial in the Hague.
On April 3, 2017, PeaceGeeks and the ICC launched an interactive, free SMS platform that enables victims, communities affected by the crimes alleged in the case of Mr. Dominic Ongwen, and the general population of Uganda, to follow the proceedings of the trial on their mobile devices for free. Up to 100,000 members of the affected communities can subscribe to the information system. The platform allows subscribers to receive and respond in three different languages, Acholi, Ateso and English, to regular public information at no cost.
“The mobile technology and SMS platform enhances and complements the work of the multidisciplinary Registry’s team in the country having the potential to reach a wide population with adequate and timely information. An open dialogue and deep understanding of the judicial developments before the ICC are key to ensure effectiveness of the victims’ rights and of the ICC proceedings,” said Mr Herman Von Hebel, the Registrar of the Court.
Victims Participation and Reparations Section — Data Collection App
Contacting the many people who might stand as witnesses in the Dominic Ongwen trial is a difficult ask when so many of these people have been displaced and victimized. On top of the SMS platform, PeaceGeeks and the ICC further collaborated to investigate how smartphone technology could help in victim testimonial collection. PeaceGeeks supported the ICC to research and design a data collection app that would take and accept applications to testify in this case. If the system works, it would give the ICC a method of gathering a vast and disparate amount of testimony from people who they might not ordinarily reach. The importance of this testimony would not only be important in possibly securing a conviction—but also in bringing a sense of inclusion, justice and closure to those who lost loved ones or saw their homes destroyed during the height of the LRA’s reign of terror.
Following PeaceGeeks' submission of research and design for this data collection app in late 2017, the app is currently in development for the ICC by a technology firm.
The mobile technology and SMS platform enhances and complements the work of the multidisciplinary Registry’s team in the country having the potential to reach a wide population with adequate and timely information. An open dialogue and deep understanding of the judicial developments before the ICC are key to ensure effectiveness of the victims’ rights and of the ICC proceedings,
- SMS Platform Design and Development
- Data Collection and Digital Security Research
- App UX/Wireframes & User Stories
Magdi Rizkallah - Projects Director - Kris Constable - Projects Director - Renee Black - Project Manager - Cherrie Lam - UX Designer