The fifth and youngest member of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Altar of Control, Dominic Ongwen, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes.
Last night, the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its verdict against Dominic Ongwen. As of February 4, the ICC has found him guilty on 61 counts. Aged 41, he will receive the second heavier sentence in the history of the court, for war crimes. The decision of the CPI intervenes two months after that pronounced against Bosco Ntaganda, the "Terminator" of the DRC.
The right arm of the bloody Messiah
In 1990, Ongwen was kidnapped by the LRA, he had been a child soldier in the insurgent armed movement ever since. Then, in 2005, rumors of his death circulated, denied by the ICC a year later. Then, in September 2007, his appearance was noticed in a documentary filmed in Uganda. The Ugandan army and Seleka militias hunted down the fallen warlord for 8 years. For his part, Ongwen continued to smuggle arms and traffic in children. He committed a lot of abuses while he was a fugitive.
Nonetheless, he committed his worst crimes within the LRA. Ongwen was under the command of Joseph Kony, the preacher and general of the armed movement known as the “Bloody Messiah”. The LRA fought the Ugandan government from the north of the country and neighboring territories. According to the ICC judge, Bertram Schmitt, Ongwen would have "personally and intentionally killed, sometimes for fun, hundreds of innocent people". However, the ICC also admitted that the accused was himself a victim. Indeed, before reaching his rank as leader, Dominic Ongwen suffered extreme suffering at the hands of the LRA.
🎥 The #Ongwen trial in numbers.
ℹ Learn more about today's decision on the sentence ➡ https://t.co/MFhXhO19YO pic.twitter.com/fJz2YxA9mc
- Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) May 6, 2021
A "light" sentence according to the ICC
Currently, the LRA no longer exists, although Joseph Kony is still at large. One of the most tragic episodes in Ongwen's career was the attack on a Ugandan refugee camp. In 2009, his battalion raided a four-day camp in the DRC, killing 346 civilians. He had also abducted 250 children.
Later, in 2015, a group of Seleka militiamen captured him in the Central African Republic (CAR). His detention came while on his way to surrender to US forces. However, his Seleka jailers still delivered him to Africom's MID. The transfer was paid at a high price, successively to the militiamen, then to the Central African army. The Americans paid $ 3 million to hand Ongwen over to the ICC. He allegedly suffered weeks of torture, according to his lawyers.
So, according to the ICC magistrates, the sentence of 25 years imprisonment would be governed by extenuating circumstances. This is due to the indoctrination of Ongwen at a young age by the LRA. The court, however, refuted one of the defense arguments. Ongwen's lawyers had argued that his mental capacities were suffering from psychological disorders. The ICC held that he was, on the contrary, subject of law, and in full legal capacity.
Nevertheless, the ICC accompanied its verdict with a favorable recommendation, despite the aggravating circumstances. Judge Schmitt recognizes, in fact, “the future possibility of reintegration into society” for Ongwen. However, this condemnation marks unusual ICC activity. Finally, even if the crimes are often serious, those indicted by the court are frequently citizens of the same continent, Africa.