A former leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, who himself had been abducted by the rebel group as a child, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday.
Dominic Ongwen, 45, was found guilty of 61 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and sexual enslavement, committed in Northern Uganda between July 2002 and 31 December.
The UN-backed ICC, based in the Hague, is the world’s first permanent international court to prosecute some of the most heinous of crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In summarizing the decision to sentence Ongowen, Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt highlighted the unique nature of the case.
Victim and perpetrator
“The Chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation. It is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully and lucidly brought tremendous suffering upon his victims”, he 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.”
Judge Smith said the Chamber decided to give certain weight in mitigation to the circumstances of Mr Ongwen's childhood, abduction by the LRA at a very young age, and his early stay with the group.
The LRA was formed in the 1980s by Joseph Kony, a self-styled prophet who has long been sought for war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Children forced to kill
The group launched its insurgency in northern Uganda, attacking camps hosting internally displaced people, eventually spreading to countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
It is estimated that as many as 25,000 children were abducted and forced to fight in the hostilities, or to serve as labourers.
As an LRA brigade commander, Mr. Ongwen sanctioned the killing of large numbers of civilians, forced marriage, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers, among other grave crimes.
He had been detained at the ICC, which is located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, since January 2015, and was found guilty in February.
The detention period will be deducted from his overall prison sentence.
The ICC also issued an order for submissions on reparations to his victims. Inputs from parties to the case are due by 6 September of this year, while those from “interested persons or organisations, particularly with local expertise” are due by 7 July 2021.