ICC sentences Ugandan insurgent commander for battle crimes

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – The Worldwide Legal Courtroom on Thursday sentenced a former youngster soldier who become a brutal commander of the infamous Ugandan insurgent group the Lord’s Resistance Military of dozens of battle crimes and crimes towards humanity, starting from a number of murders to pressured marriages.

Dominic Ongwen, who was kidnapped by the ghost militia as a 9-year-old boy and become a baby soldier and later promoted to an govt rank, faces a most life sentence after being convicted of 61 offenses.

The judgment, which will be appealed, describes the horrors of the LRA assaults on camps for displaced civilians in northern Uganda within the early 2000s, and Ongwen’s mistreatment of girls. who have been pressured to be his “wives”. Activists praised his convictions for crimes towards ladies, which included rape, pressured being pregnant and sexual slavery.

Protection legal professionals argued that Ongwen was “a sufferer and never a sufferer and a perpetrator on the identical time.”

However presiding choose Bertram Schmitt dismissed these arguments, saying, “This case issues crimes dedicated by Dominic Ongwen as a completely accountable grownup, as LRA commander in his mid to late twenties.”

Schmitt described the reign of terror unleashed by the Lord’s Resistance Military, which was based and led by one of many world’s most needed battle crimes suspects, Joseph Kony.

Civilian ladies captured by the group have been become intercourse slaves and wives for the fighters. The LRA turned kids into troopers. Males, ladies and youngsters have been murdered in assaults on camps for internally displaced individuals.

“Civilians have been shot, burned and crushed to dying,” Schmitt mentioned, detailing a Might 2004 assault on a camp within the Ugandan village of Lukodi carried out by fighters commanded by Ongwen.

Kony promoted Ongwen to the rank of colonel after the assault.

Dozens of Lukodi residents gathered round a transportable radio to observe the proceedings in The Hague. Some collapsed crying when the responsible verdicts have been handed down, in response to a neighborhood reporter on the scene.

Ongwen confirmed no emotion when the verdicts have been learn in courtroom. Normally, defendants should seem whereas the presiding choose reads the verdicts. In Ongwen’s case, there have been so many who he was allowed to stay seated.

“The LRA has terrorized the individuals of northern Uganda and neighboring international locations for greater than 20 years. An LRA chief has lastly been held to account earlier than the ICC for the horrible abuses suffered by the victims, ”mentioned Elise Keppler, affiliate director of the Worldwide Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

Reacting to the convictions, Worldwide Legal Courtroom prosecutor Fatou Bensouda mentioned her ideas have been with the victims of the LRA atrocities.

Bensouda acknowledged that Ongwen had as soon as been a sufferer of the LRA, however mentioned he had turn into “one of many prime navy leaders, fervently engaged within the LRA trigger with notorious brutality.” As an grownup he was personally accountable for encouraging and committing towards others the very crimes he himself suffered as a baby. As proved at trial, he was additionally the direct perpetrator of horrible sexual violence, together with towards younger women, a few of whom had been forcibly “married” to him. “

Delphine Carlens, deputy director of the Worldwide Federation for Human Rights, mentioned Ongwen’s convictions for rape, sexual slavery, pressured marriage and compelled being pregnant have been “an incredible step ahead in worldwide recognition of the seriousness of those crimes. and an essential end result of the prosecutor’s coverage on intercourse and gender crimes. “

The Lord’s Resistance Military, which started in Uganda as an anti-government insurrection, is accused of atrocities, together with massacres, recruiting boys to struggle and holding women as intercourse slaves. On the peak of their energy, the group was a notoriously brutal group whose members had eluded Ugandan forces for years within the bush of northern Uganda.

When navy stress pressured the LRA out of Uganda in 2005, rebels dispersed in components of central Africa. Reviews over time have claimed that Kony was in hiding in Sudan’s Darfur area or a distant nook of the Central African Republic, the place LRA fighters continued to kill and kidnap in occasional raids on villages, and the place Ongwen was arrested in 2015.

Kony rose to worldwide prominence in 2012 when US advocacy group Invisible Kids made a viral video highlighting the crimes of the LRA. By this time, the group had already been weakened by the defections, breaking apart into smaller, extremely cell teams. The Ugandan military estimated in 2013 that the group didn’t embody quite a lot of hundred fighters.

“At this time’s verdict is a reminder that LRA chief Joseph Kony stays a fugitive who has eluded justice for greater than 15 years,” Keppler mentioned, calling on nations to re-engage within the carry to justice on the ICC.

Invisible Kids mentioned this week that 108 kids kidnapped by the LRA stay lacking.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, president of the northern Ugandan district of Gulu, instructed The Related Press that there have been “combined reactions” among the many native inhabitants.

Some have been unhappy that Ongwen might face years in jail as a sufferer of the insurgency, he mentioned, whereas many others mourned for the youngsters they didn’t count on to see once more.

“There are such a lot of kids who nonetheless have not been discovered. When such a factor occurs, it brings again painful reminiscences, ”Mapenduzi mentioned, referring to Ongwen’s conviction.

Mapenduzi mentioned he had a nephew who was kidnapped in 1996 and that the boy’s mom nonetheless “shouted” his title on some days, on the lookout for him.

“From 1996 till right this moment, we do not know if he is lifeless or alive,” the official mentioned.


Related Press author Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed reporting.

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