[JURIST] Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) [State Department backgrounder] commander Dominic Ongwen on Monday made his first appearance [press release] before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The pre-trial hearing was brief as Ongwen simply had to confirm his identity and that he clearly understood the charges against him. During his hearing, Ongwen thanked God and referred to himself as a former soldier saying that he “was abducted in 1988 and … taken to the bush when [he] was 14 years old” in Acholi, his native language. Ongwen faces three counts of crimes against humanity: murder, enslavement and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering; and four counts of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population and pillaging. A pre-trial confirmation of charges hearing has been scheduled for August 24. This hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Ongwen committed each of the crimes with which he is charged. The ICC took legal custody [JURIST report] of Ongwen in Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui earlier this month.
The decision to send Ongwen to the ICC came in spite of opposition from the Ugandan government, which wished to try him in the country after his surrender [JURIST report] in early January. Uganda continues to heal from the atrocities committed during the Ugandan Civil War [BBC backgrounder] and has taken strides to end the conflict and bring to justice the perpetrators of that dark time. The organization Invisible Children [advocacy website] opposes the actions of the LRA and has been instrumental in bringing to the forefront the efforts to capture accused leader Joseph Kony. In May 2012 a Major General of the LRA was captured [JURIST report] by force after having carried out an ambush in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The US government also aided in the protection of Ugandan citizens by introducing legislation [JURIST report] in early 2012 that would put in safe-guards in Uganda to prevent more attacks from Kony and the LRA.