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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - THE HAGUE — A former Ugandan warlord whose forces attacked camps for the internally displaced across the country, has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, judges ruled on Thursday.
The global court based in The Hague, Netherlands, found that Dominic Ongwen was “fully responsible” for multiple grave violations in northern Uganda in the early 2000s, as part of a longstanding armed insurgency dating back to the 1980s.
As a brigade commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Ongwen sanctioned the murder of large numbers of civilians, forced marriage, sexual slavery, and the recruitment of child soldiers “to participate actively in hostilities”, among other grave crimes.
Attacks against civilians were justified by the reasoning that they were associated with the Government and were therefore the “enemy” of the insurgents, the ICC said in a statement, noting also that LRA soldiers were “under orders to shoot civilians in the chest and head to ensure that they died”.
According to the ICC verdict summary, “in response to the question whether shooting a civilian during the course of an attack would constitute an offense, Witness P-0142, an LRA fighter, stated that ‘nobody would see it as a crime if a civilian is injured or if a civilian is shot at’.”
Those targeted “in particular” were those who lived in the many government-established camps for internally displaced people (IDP), according to the court, which examined evidence of attacks on four IDP sites between 2003 and 2004.
Although the court noted that Ongwen suffered greatly after being abducted by the LRA as a nine-year-old child, it noted that he was being put on trial for crimes committed as a “fully responsible adult and as a commander of the LRA in his mid to late twenties”.
It was during the three-year period under review by the court from July 2002 until December 2005 that Ongwen rose from LRA battalion commander to head of the Sinia Brigade with the rank of brigadier, overseeing several hundred soldiers.
“The Chamber found that Dominic Ongwen is fully responsible for all these crimes,” the court said. “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.”
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