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ICC: Uganda ex-rebel leader Dominic Ongwen found guilty of war crimes

COUNTIES
By Jael Mboga | February 5th 2021
Dominic Ongwen, a former senior commander in the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The International Criminal Court on Thursday found Dominic Ongwen guilty of 61 comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The crimes were committed in Northern Uganda between July 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005.

The verdict may be appealed by either party to the proceedings within 30 days after the notification of the Judgment, the ICC statement says.

ICC Trial Chamber IX, composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Péter Kovács and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan, analysed the evidence and found that Ongwen is guilty.

He attacked the civilian population as such, murder, torture, enslavement, destruction of property and persecution; committed in the context of the four specified attacks on the Internally Displaced Persons camps Pajule (October 10, 2003), Odek (April 29, 2004), Lukodi (on or about May 19, 2004) and Abok (June 8, 2004).

Ongwen was also found guilty of sexual and gender based crimes, namely, forced marriage, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, forced pregnancy and outrages upon personal dignity he committed against seven women (whose names and individual stories are specified in the judgment) who were abducted and placed into his household.

A number of further sexual and gender based crimes he committed against girls and women within the Sinia brigade, namely forced marriage, torture, rape, sexual slavery and enslavement; and

The crime of conscripting children under the age of 15 into the Sinia brigade and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

The Chamber found that these crimes were committed in the context of the armed rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the government of Uganda.

Thursday's ruling in The Hague was watched live by people in Gulu - not far from the Lukodi refugee camp. [AFP]

 The LRA, including Ongwen, perceived as associated with the government of Uganda, and thus as the enemy, the civilians living in Northern Uganda. This concerned in particular those who lived in government-established IDP camps.

The Chamber found that Ongwen is fully responsible for all these crimes. The Chamber did not find evidence that supported the claim that he suffered from any mental disease or disorder during the period relevant to the charges or that he committed the crimes under duress or any threats.

The ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, does not provide for a death penalty; the sentence may be up to 30 years of imprisonment (and under exceptional circumstances a life imprisonment) and/or a fine. Furthermore, a phase dedicated to the reparations to victims will be opened.

The trial in this case opened on December 6, 2016.

Over the course of 234 hearings, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, presented 109 witnesses and experts, the Defence team lead by Krispus Odongo presented 63 witnesses and experts.

A total of 4,095 victims, represented by their legal counsels Joseph Akwenyu Manoba, and Francisco Cox, as well as Paolina Massidda, respectively, were granted the right to participate in the proceedings.

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