Former LRA Rebel Commander Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in jail

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has on Thursday, May 06, sentenced the former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment.

Dominic Ongwen is accused of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed while commanding LRA rebels who attacked four camps for displaced people in Pajule in Pader District, Abok, Lukodi, Odek in Gulu and Oyam districts in 2003 and 2004 killing, raping and looting among other crimes committed by the insurgents.

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In February, the ICC found Ongwen guilty of 61 charges which include murder, enslavement and torture. According to court ruling, the Ex LRA Commander was found guilty of war crimes committed at Pajule camp, Rape committed in 2003 and 2005, sexual slavery, slavery among others.

“Dominic Ongwen has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for all the crimes he committed. He has been found guilty of enslavement, outrages, destruction of property, forced marriage, slavery, abduction of people, conscripting children below the age of 15 into the brigade attempted murder and forced pregnancy,” the judgment reads.

The court will convene and pass the sentence after submissions by the prosecutor and defence by the Mr. Ongwen.

The trial in this case opened on 6 December 2016. The Prosecution and the Defence have completed the presentation of their evidence. The Legal Representatives of Victims also called witnesses to appear before the Chamber. On 12 December 2019, the Presiding Judge declared the closure of the submission of evidence in the case. The closing briefs were filed on 24 February 2020. The closing statements took place from 10 to 12 March 2020.

Over the course of 231 hearings, the Chamber heard 69 witnesses and experts called by the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, 54 witnesses and experts called by the Defence team lead by Krispus Ayena Odongo and 7 witnesses and experts called by the Legal Representatives of the Victims participating in the proceedings. The judges ensured the respect of the rights guaranteed by the Rome Statute to each of the parties, including the right to question the witnesses.

A total of 4065 victims, represented by their legal counsels Joseph Akwenyu Manoba, and Francisco Cox, as well as Paolina Massidda, respectively, have been granted the right to participate in the proceedings. They have expressed their position on matters heard before the Chamber and were authorised to examine witnesses on specific issues.

The Trial Chamber issued 70 oral decisions, and 190 written decisions during the trial phase of the proceedings. The total case record, consisting of the filings of the parties and participants and the Chamber’s decision, currently includes more than 1750 filings.

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.

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