Kampala: Over 30 lawyers across the globe have expressed willingness to represent Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) trials, a government official said on Monday.
Henry Okello Oryem, the state minister for international relations, told reporters here that over 30 US, European Union and African lawyers have contacted the office of attorney general, director of public prosecution and ministry of foreign affairs to freely defend Ongwen at ICC, where he faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"Ongwen has access to lawyers of his choice. Many lawyers from all sort of life have contacted the office of attorney general, director of public prosecution and even the ministry of foreign affairs wishing to represent Dominic Ongwen," said Okello, Xinhua reported.
"He (Ongwen) has access to lawyers of his choice or teams of lawyers to choose to represent him. One of the lawyers (John Jones) who has personally contacted me to represent Ongwen is the one who is representing the son of late Col. Mamuar Gadaffi son (Saif al- Islam)," he said.
"The government will cooperate with the prosecutors of ICC in the matter of Ongwen's trial including access to availing witnesses. The government of Uganda will wish Ongwen to get justice and fair justice," he said.
Ongwen surrendered to Central African Republic (CAR) Seleka rebels, who later handed him to US Special Forces and African troops hunting LRA leader Joseph Kony and his fighters operating in the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and CAR. He will be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands.
Ongwen, a former abductee who rose through the ranks of the LRA, is the first senior rebel commander to be flown to the ICC.
Ongwen, together with warlord Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya were indicted in 2005 by ICC over war crimes and crimes against humanity. They face 33 counts of war crimes which include murder abduction, rape, sexual enslavement, mutilations, maiming and burning of villages. Lukwiya has since died and Otti was reported executed on Kony's orders in 2007.
The LRA have been blamed for the killing of over 100,000 people and abductions of more than 60,000 children during a three-decade- long campaign in Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and CAR.