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ICC confirms charges against Ugandan rebel Dominic Ongwen

Thursday July 18 2019

Ugandan Dominic Ongwen.

Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan commander in warlord Joseph Kony's feared militia, waiting for the start of court procedures at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on January 26, 2015. The Appeals Chamber has thrown out his appeal against the charges he is facing. PHOTO | AFP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Appeals Chamber has confirmed the charges against Ugandan rebel leader Dominic Ongwen, dismissing his challenge of the case.

The decision on Wednesday means Ongwen will stand trial for seventy counts, plus other additional charges of crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda when he was deputy leader of proscribed group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ongwen’s lawyers had earlier argued that the charges were defective, but the Trial Chamber IX on March 7, 2019 threw out his challenge. Ongwen then moved to the Appeals Chamber, which on Wednesday upheld the Trial Chamber's ruling and rejected Ongwen's challenge of the case.

In a press release, the Appeals Chamber said the Trial Chamber was correct when it ruled that Ongwen had not filed an objection at the commencement of the trial despite being given opportunity to do so.

When dismissing Ongwen's challenge of the case in March, the Trial Chamber ruled that there was insufficient justification for Ongwen to oppose the charges. It added that Ongwen challenged the charges nearly three years after they were first confirmed.

CHARGES

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The Appeals Chamber decision means Ongwen, once a kidnapped child soldier, will be the first Ugandan to face trial at the ICC. The case was initially a compendium of indictments against three key leaders in the LRA: Leader Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Ongwen. But as Ongwen was the only one captured alive, the Court ruled to separate him from the rest to start the trial. Otti and Odhiambo were proven dead.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had on December 21, 2015 charged Ongwen with crimes related to his role in the LRA, including masterminding attacks on the Pajule IDP camp, the Odek IDP camp and the Abok IDP camp.

He was charged with leading attacks against the civilian population, murder, attempted murder, torture, cruel treatment, other inhumane acts, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, pillaging, destruction of property, and persecution.

The prosecutor later expanded charges to include sexual and gender-based crimes committed between 2002 and 2005 in Sinia Brigade. These included forced marriage, rape, torture, sexual slavery, and enslavement.

She also expanded the charges to include the conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities between 2002 and 2005, in Sinia Brigade, all in northern Uganda.