[JURIST] Dominic Ongwen [ICC profile], an alleged former top official in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), pleaded not guilty [press release] Tuesday to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The charges stem from LRA attacks committed in late 2003 and 2004 in Ugandan IDP camps and include allegations of murder, rape, forced marriage, and the use of child soldiers. Defense lawyers for Ongwen attempted to halt the trial [text, PDF] to claim that he did not properly understand the charges and called for psychological tests to establish if he was mentally fit to plead. However, judges ordered [materials] Ongwen to enter a plea. Ongwen stated “[i]n the name of God, I deny all these charges.”
The process leading to Ongwen’s trial was extensive and has been hailed by human rights groups as a major step as he is the first LRA leader to be tried in court. In March the ICC confirmed the charges [JURIST report] against Ongwen and approved the process of beginning the trial. In January the court first opened the confirmation of charges hearing [JURIST report] against the accused. A year earlier the ICC took legal custody [JURIST report] of the alleged former commander in Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui.