Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction

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The Psychological Assessment of the Defendant in the Ongwen Case: An Interview with Prof. Joop de Jong

Marina Fortuna, based on an interview with Prof. Joop de Jong

Following up from a previous discussion on the psychological assessment of the defendant in the Ongwen case, this blog post shares the observations of Prof. Joop de Jong, one of the mental health professionals who assessed Dominic Ongwen’s mental state. Prof. de Jong identified three main challenges posed by the case, which may come up in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) future case law: (1) the impact of the cultural beliefs on the determination of the Defendant’s mental health, (2) the selection of mental health experts and the ways in which the reports of the experts can be challenged and (3) the problem of reaching the conclusion on the mental health state at the time of the commission of the crimes.

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The ‘Mental Disorder’ Defence in Prosecutor v Ongwen

Marina Fortuna


On 4 February 2021 the Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its judgment in the Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen. The case concerns the events which occurred in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005 for which Ongwen was charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, 66 of which he was found guilty for.

During the proceedings, the Defence Counsel raised the defence of mental disease (or defect), provided for in Article 31(1)(a) of the ICC Statute as a ground for excluding Ongwen’s responsibility. The judgment’s course of proceedings and the Trial Chamber’s reasoning addresses important procedural and evidentiary issues concerning the ICC’s mental disease defence. This contribution discusses two of them: the procedural issues concerning the burden and standard of proof and the evidentiary issues concerning the expert reports and psychological/psychiatric examination.

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