ICC Convicts LRA’s Dominic Ongwen on 61 Counts

He was facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during attacks in Pajule IDP camp in October 2003, Odek IDP camp in April 2004, Lukodi IDP camp in May 2004, and Abok IDP camps in June 2004.

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By URN

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has convicted Dominic Ongwen, the former commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ongwen was found guilty on 61 counts of War crimes and crimes against Humanity. 

He was facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during attacks in Pajule IDP camp on October 10, 2003, Odek IDP camp on April 29, 2004, Lukodi IDP camp on May 19, 2004, and Abok IDP camps on June 29, 2004.

On Thursday, ICC Trial Chamber nine composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Péter Kovács and Raul Cano Pangalangan said that they found, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ongwen is guilty of murder, attempted murder, torture, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, pillaging, destruction of property and persecution of civilians. All the crimes were committed in the context of the four specified attacks on the Internally Displaced Person’s camps.

He 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, which he committed against seven women who were abducted and placed into his household.

The same court convicted Ongwen on charges of forced marriage, torture, rape, sexual slavery and enslavement, committed against girls and women within the Sinia brigade, and the crime of conscripting children under the age of 15 into the Sinia brigade and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

Judge Schmitt said, in a judgement delivered today that the court found Ongwen fully responsible for all the crimes, committed in the camps. The attack in Lukodi, which took place on May 19, 2004, left more than 60 people dead.

The Chamber, however, did not find evidence that supported the claim that Ongwen suffered from any mental disease or disorder during the period relevant to the charges or that he committed these crimes under duress or under any threats. The judge said in his statement that Ongwen himself participated in the crimes and oversaw them.  

The court found that Ongwen was not under duress, and did not have a mental disorder that would affect his decision-making. The judge instead said that Ongwen was not a subordinate, but a man who contested orders and exercised his own independence in committing the crimes and planned very well before acting.    

According to Schmitt, the chamber will soon impose the crimes of which he has been convicted. For the purposes of determining the appropriate sentence, the ICC chamber will consider submissions by the Prosecutor, the defence of Dominic Ongwen led by Crispus Ayena and the representatives of the victims.

The Defence could appeal the case, and based on the evidence, the appeals chamber can uphold or overturn the judgment. Ongwen can be jailed in any country of the ICC member states for a maximum of 30 years or a life sentence. ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute does not provide for a death penalty.

Ongwen is the first among the five LRA rebel commanders indicted by the ICC in 2005 to face trial at The Hague based court in the Netherlands. Others indicted included LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony still on the run, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, and Raska Lukwiya who are all presumed dead.

Over the course of 234 hearings, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, presented a total of 109 witnesses and experts, the Defence team lead by Krispus Ayena Odongo presented a total of 63 witnesses and experts and seven witnesses and experts were called by the Legal Representatives of the Victims that participated in the proceedings.

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