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Ugandan rebel commander sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes

Ugandan rebel commander sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes
May 06
13:01 2021

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague has sentenced Dominic Ongwen, ex-commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in Uganda, to 25 years in prison for war crimes.

Ongwen was in February convicted on 61 of the 70 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, pillaging and using child soldiers in the LRA.

Delivering judgement on Thursday, Bertram Schmitt, ICC presiding judge, said the judges had to weigh Ongwen’s brutality with his own tortured past when deciding on a sentence.

“The chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation. It is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims,” Schmitt said.


“However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering himself at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader.”


During the trial in February, Ongwen’s lawyers had argued that the convict was also a victim of LRA.


The lawyers had said he was abducted at the age of nine on his way to school by the LRA and forced to be a child soldier.

Ongwen rose to become the deputy commander after winning the confidence of Joseph Kony, LRA leader.

He later fell out with Kony and was on the run for a long time. In 2005, the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest.

The US, in 2013, offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.


In 2015, Ongwen surrendered to the US special forces who were also after Kony and other LRA commanders in the Central African Republic (CAR).

He was thereafter transferred to the ICC and his trial began in December 2016.

Ongwen had told the court that the LRA forced him to eat beans soaked with the blood of the first people he was made to kill as part of a brutal initiation.

“I am before this international court with so many charges, and yet I am the first victim of child abduction. What happened to me I do not even believe happened to Jesus Christ,” Ongwen had said.



Ongwen’s lawyers had asked for a 10-year sentence based on the argument that he was also a victim of LRA but the prosecutors dismissed the argument, saying his experiences as a child soldier did not reduce the gravity of his crimes.


The judge ruled that Ongwen committed the crimes “as a fully responsible adult, as a commander of the LRA” and that “his guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt”.

The judge said there was no evidence to support the argument that Ongwen “suffered from any mental disease or disorder during the period relevant to the charges, or that he committed these crimes under duress”.


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