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April 13, 2024
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ICC convicts Dominic Ongwen of war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has on Thursday convicted Dominic Ongwen, a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 45-year-old was found guilty of 61 charges over atrocities he committed against the people of Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan in the early 2000s. The conviction also takes into account his first by the Netherlands based court of forced pregnancy.

Ongwen’s conviction comes on account that he ordered and master-minded attacks on refugee camps as a senior commander in the LRA, which under its fugitive chief Joseph Kony waged a bloody campaign in four African nations to set up a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

The presiding judge Bertram Schmitt said that Ongwen’s guilt had been established beyond reasonable doubt;

“His guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt,” said Schmitt as he read out the verdict in the tribunal in The Hague.
Ongwen, nicknamed “White Ant”, was convicted of charges including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and the conscription of child soldiers. He had denied all the charges.

The Judges rejected defence arguments that Ongwen was himself a victim, as he had been abducted by the LRA at the age of around nine and suffered psychological damage as a result.

“The chamber is aware that he suffered much,” judge Schmitt said. “However this case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a responsible adult and a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

“The chamber did not find evidence for the claim by the defence that he suffered from any mental disease or that he committed the crimes under duress,” Schmitt said.

Human Rights Watch described the case as a landmark in achieving justice for victims of the LRA.

“This case is a milestone as the first and only LRA case to reach a verdict anywhere in the world,” Elise Keppler, associate director of the International Justice Program at HRW, told AFP.
The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni.

The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread to three other African nations — Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Judges said Ongwen – whose nom de guerre means “born at the time of the white ant” – ordered his soldiers to carry out massacres of civilians at the Lukodi, Pajule, Odek, and Abok refugee camps.

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