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ICC Set To Rule On Top LRA Commander, Ongwen Case

eastnews.co.ug

Agencies

 

Compiled By Markson Omagor

 

The International Criminal Court is set to deliver its judgment on a case in which former rebel commander, Dominic Ongwen is accused of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Dominic Ongwen following proceedings during the ICC hearing (File Photo)

The Court in a press release said the ruling to acquit or convict Ongwen will be in January next year.

 

Ongwen is accused of committing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda under the Lord’s Resistance Army group.

 

Below is the full statement issued by ICC

 

The Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that the judgment on conviction or acquittal pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute in the case The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen will be delivered on 12 January 2021 at 10:00 (The Hague local time).

 

The session will be transmitted live through the ICC website. Practical information on attending the session and information materials will be available in due course.

 

The verdict will be read out in public and will either acquit or convict the accused. The accused before the ICC is presumed innocent. While the Prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused, the Trial Chamber will convict the accused only if it is satisfied that the charges have been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

 

The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted and discussed before it at the trial.

 

The Chamber is composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Péter Kovács and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan. The three judges ensure the fairness of the trial and that the rights of both parties and of the victims are respected. In response to the verdict, the parties will be able to appeal the decision before the ICC’s Appeals Chamber.

 

Who is Dominic Ongwen

 

Dominic Ongwen was born in 1975 in the village of Choorum, Kilak County, Amuru district, Northern Uganda. He is a former child abductee and child soldier, and former commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that formerly operated in northern Uganda.

 

As the head of one of the four LRA brigades, Ongwen was a member of the “Control Altar” of the LRA that directs military strategy. He is currently detained by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity and is awaiting the court’s verdict.

 

Origins and name

Dominic Okumu Savio (his birth name) was born around 1975, the fourth son of Ronald Owiya and Alexy Acayo, two schoolteachers living in Paibona. His parents, like most others in Acoliland at the time, gave him a false name and trained him to use if ever he was abducted, to protect the rest of the family. This name, Ongwen, means “born at the time of the white ant”. It was later to become his nom de guerre.

 

Abduction

Ongwen was abducted by the LRA as he walked to Abili Primary School in Koro. According to his own testimony this happened in 1988 when he was fourteen. However it has often been reported that he was nine or ten, and also that he was carried by other captives all the way up to the LRA’s main military bases because he was ‘too little to walk’.

 

When Ongwen’s mother heard that he had been kidnapped, she refused to run away with the other villagers saying she was ready to face the rebels. On their return, they found her dead and his father was later found dead too.

 

Once abducted, he underwent initiation ceremonies which included torture and being forced to watch violent rituals of people being killed. He was subsequently indoctrinated under the tutelage of Vincent Otti, while still a child, as an LRA fighter.

 

He then rose within the ranks becoming a major at the age of 18 and brigadier of the Sinia Brigade, one of the four LRA brigades by his late twenties.

 

Family

During his time with the LRA, Ongwen had multiple wives, including Jennifer, Santa (Min Tata), Margaret, Florence Ayot, Agnes Aber (Min Ayari), Fatuma and Nancy Abwot.

 

It was in 1993 that Florence Ayot, herself an abductee, was “transferred” to Ongwen after her own husband died. He also fathered at least eleven children, four of them with Florence Ayot. Some sources claim he had “more than 20 children”.

 

Ayot later testified to the ICC that Ongwen, along with two other commanders and herself, had plotted to escape but their plan was discovered and Ongwen was demoted, disarmed and imprisoned for more than two weeks.

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