- The International Criminal Court (ICC) has found Dominic Ongwen guilty of a total of 61 crimes against humanity and war crimes.
- ICC Trial Chamber IX, composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Pter Kovcs and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan, found Ongwen guilty, beyond any reasonable doubt.
- His crimes included murder, attempted murder, torture, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, pillaging, destruction of property and persecution.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has found Dominic Ongwen guilty of a total of 61 crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005.
ICC Trial Chamber IX, composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Pter Kovcs and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan, found, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ongwen guilty of the following crimes:
attacks against the civilian population as such, murder, attempted murder, torture, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, pillaging, destruction of property and persecution; committed in the context of the four specified attacks on the Internally Displaced Persons camps (“IDP camps”) Pajule (10 October 2003), Odek (29 April 2004), Lukodi (on or about 19 May 2004) and Abok (8 June 2004);
sexual and gender based crimes, namely, forced marriage, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, forced pregnancy and outrages upon personal dignity he committed against seven women (whose names and individual stories are specified in the judgment) who were abducted and placed into his household;
a number of further sexual and gender based crimes he committed against girls and women within the Sinia brigade, namely forced marriage, torture, rape, sexual slavery and enslavement; and
the crime of conscripting children under the age of 15 into the Sinia brigade and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The Chamber found that these crimes were committed in the context of the armed rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the government of Uganda. The LRA, including Dominic Ongwen, perceived as associated with the government of Uganda, and thus as the enemy, the civilians living in Northern Uganda. This concerned in particular those who lived in government-established IDP camps.
The Chamber found that Dominic Ongwen is fully responsible for all these crimes. The Chamber did not find evidence that supported the claim that he 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.
“Earlier today, the Judges of the International Criminal Court found Dominic Ongwen guilty beyond reasonable doubt of an overwhelming majority of the charges brought by the Prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the time he was a senior leader of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army (”LRA”) in Uganda,” the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said Thursday.
“The trial aims to establish the truth through the trier of fact. This is equally important for the memory of those who perished from the horrors they endured as much as for those who survived them.”
“Today, the truth was established through this important judgment and justice was served. Through the Court’s crucial work, today, an important message was sent globally that perpetrators of atrocities must be and will be held accountable,” Bensouda said.
“As this case has clearly demonstrated, the brutal and terrifying campaigns of attacks on the civilian population, sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced pregnancy, murder, mutilation, torture, pillaging, abduction and other atrocities by the LRA with Mr Ongwen as one of its senior leaders, had horrific consequences for the civilian population in Uganda, including for women and children.”
“Today, my first thoughts are with the victims of the heinous crimes we witnessed in this case. The harrowing accounts of the victims were finally recognised through this verdict. I want to seize this important moment to express my solidarity with the victims and affected communities of Ongwen’s crimes in Uganda, and profound gratitude to the victims and the 116 witnesses who collaborated with my Office in this case. I am grateful for their resilience, courage and commitment to the cause of justice. They are most deserving of our praise and admiration,” the ICC Prosecutor said.
“Today’s guilty verdict of more than 60 counts included important convictions on the basis of sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children, including for the first time, the crime of forced marriage and forced pregnancy. This is yet another concrete expression of my Office’s declared policy in action to address these serious underreported crimes.”
“Let me add here that Dominic Ongwen was, at one time, himself a victim of the LRA, abducted as a child and forced to become a child soldier. In time, however, he grew into one of the most senior military leaders, fervently committed to the LRA cause with infamous brutality. As an adult, he was personally responsible for encouraging and committing against others the very crimes that he himself suffered as a child. As proven at trial, he was also a direct perpetrator of terrible sexual violence, including against young girls, some of whom were forcibly “married” to him. We charged him for the horrible crimes he committed as an adult and today he was convicted for those crimes,” Bensouda said.
“His trial is now over, but it is not the end of the judicial process. Mr Ongwen continues to benefit from all his due process rights. Both the Prosecution and the Defence have the option to appeal the verdict following a thorough review. There will be hearings on sentencing, which can also be subject to appeal, after which there will be hearings on reparations for the victims.”
“But let there be no mistake. Today was an important milestone in the journey to bring justice to the people of Uganda,” asserted the ICC Prosecutor.
“As a prosecuting office, we have worked tirelessly throughout the proceedings with an unyielding commitment to our mandate, and on the strength of the evidence we have scrupulously collected, to bring a measure of justice to the victims of Ongwen’s crimes. Today is their day.”
“It is my sincere hope that this trial and verdict will strengthen the collective resolve of the international community to end impunity for atrocity crimes, including for sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against and affecting children; crimes so prevalent in conflicts around the globe. There must be accountability for the perpetrators.”
The Chamber before sentencing Ongwen, will receive submissions on the appropriate sentence by the Prosecutor, the Ongwen’s defence team and the legal representatives of the participating victims. The ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, does not provide for a death penalty; the sentence may be up to 30 years of imprisonment (and under exceptional circumstances a life imprisonment) and/or a fine.
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 last year.
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 7 witnesses and experts were called by the Legal Representatives of the Victims participating in the proceedings.
A total of 4,095 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 506 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 1760 filings.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Cte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; and Venezuela (I and II) and has completed three other preliminary examinations concerning the situations in Palestine (pending a jurisdictional ruling) as well as Nigeria and Ukraine (pending requests for authorisation to proceed to investigation).
By Jay Jackson, Nigeria Sun