The International Criminal Court has convicted Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier-turned-Lord’s Resistance Army commander, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The 45-year-old Ongwen faced 70 charges linked to a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA, whose fugitive chief Joseph Kony waged a bloody campaign to set up a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.
“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 Human Rights Watch said.
Ongwen’s case is the first at the ICC to involve an alleged perpetrator and victim of the same war crimes, with Ongwen himself having been abducted by the rebels as a child while on the way to school.
Ongwen, nicknamed “White Ant”, denied the charges “in the name of God” and his defence lawyers said he must be acquitted because he was psychologically damaged by being taken by the group at a young age.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said that Ongwen’s history as an abducted child turned fighter could be considered at the sentencing stage of the trial. But he also stressed that “the case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a fully responsible adult as a commander of the LRA in his mid- to late 20s.”
(With input from agencies)