By Spy Uganda
Kampala: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced Dominic Ongwen, former leader of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, to 25 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Uganda.
The 45-year-old in February was found guilty of 61 charges including murder, rape, and sexual enslavement during a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony.
Announcing his 25-year prison term, ICC Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said that judges had to weigh Ongwen’s brutality with his own tortured past when deciding on a sentence.
“The chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation. It is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims,” Schmitt said.
“However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering himself at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader.”
Ongwen, who was present in The Hague-based court showed no emotion as he heard the sentence handed down to him.
Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year prison term for Ongwen, saying his own history as a schoolboy abducted by the LRA justified a lower sentence than the maximum 30 years to life allowed by the ICC.
“This is one circumstance that sets this case apart from all the others tried at this court,” ICC prosecution lawyer Colin Black told a sentencing hearing at the Netherlands-based court in April.
Victims of his crimes had asked the court to impose the full life sentence, however, while the defense had sought a 10-year prison term.
The case was the first at the tribunal in The Hague to involve an alleged perpetrator and victim of the same war crimes, with Ongwen himself having been abducted by the LRA as a child.
Under the leadership of fugitive rebel Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorized Ugandans for nearly two decades as it battled the government of President Yoweri Museveni from bases in the north of the country and in what is now South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.
In 2004, the Ugandan government referred the conflict with the LRA to the ICC, the world’s first permanent tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children during its campaign of violence, which ended in 2005 when military pressure forced the armed group out of Uganda and its members scattered across parts of central Africa.
The LRA was founded 30 years ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni. It has now largely been wiped out by the UPDF.