Uganda LRA commander docked at The Hague

Uganda LRA commander docked at The Hague

Monday, January 26, 2015 6:39 pm

Dominic Ongwen: in court at the ICC today

Dominic Ongwen: in court at the ICC today

Notorious former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen made his first appearance before the International Criminal Court on Monday, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The initial hearing for the Ugandan child soldier-turned-warlord came days after he was transferred to The Hague-based court following his surprise surrender to US troops earlier this month.

Ongwen is the first leader of the brutal Ugandan rebel army led by the fugitive Joseph Kony to appear before the ICC, created to try the world’s worst crimes.

A calm, composed Ongwen wore a blue suit, white shirt and blue-and-grey plaid tie as he identified himself as born in Gulu in northern Uganda in 1975.

“I’d like to thank God for creating Heaven and Earth, together with everyone that’s on Earth,” Ongwen said.

“I was abducted in 1988 and I was taken to the bush when I was 14 years old,” he said in his Acholi language.

“Prior to my arrival at court I was a soldier in the LRA,” said Ongwen, sporting short hair rather than the trademark dreadlocks of his time as an LRA commander.

Known as the “White Ant”, Ongwen was one of the most senior commanders of the LRA, which is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting some 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion that started in 1987.

He has been wanted for war crimes for almost a decade by the ICC, in its oldest-running case to date.

The United States had offered a $5-million (4.3-million-euro) reward for his capture.

Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova read Ongwen his rights and the charges were put to him, which included a deadly attack on a refugee camp in 2004.

Trendafilova set the date for Ongwen’s next appearance for August 24, when hearings will start to determine if he should face trial.

Ongwen will be asked to plead only at the start of a proper trial.

Ongwen was a senior aide to LRA leader and warlord Kony, who is still at large and being pursued by regional troops and US special forces.

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