Notorious Jospeh  Kony ‘s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Deputy  rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has been convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Hague ,Netherlands .

The historic ruling which was watched by  hundreds of the LRA war victims in northern Uganda also saw Ongwen convicted of forced pregnancy – a legal first in an international court.

Ongwen, a feared commander of the notorious – marauding Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is the first member of the vicious LRA rebel outfit that terrorized millions of people in northern Uganda  for over  two decades . He was convicted on 61 of the 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes he faced.

The charges relate to attacks on four camps for internally displaced people in Uganda in 2004. More than 4,000 victims provided testimony in the ICC case. Ongwen’s sentence is to be handed down at a later date. He could face life imprisonment.

This case presented a dilemma to the court as Ongwen appeared to be both the victim and the alleged perpetrator.

He said he was abducted by the LRA and forced to be a child soldier, before going on to rise up the ranks to become the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony.

“Straight away we can say without mincing words that we are definitely going to appeal. On all the charges,” Ongwen’s lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo told the BBC. He said the verdict “landed like a bombshell”.

But it was welcomed by Elise Keppler, associate director of the International Justice Program at campaign group Human Rights Watch.

“This case is a milestone as the first and only LRA case to reach a verdict anywhere in the world,” she told the media . Nicknamed the “White Ant’ visibly terrified Ongwen sat in the dock quietly as the trial judge stated   ““There exists no ground excluding Dominic Ongwen’s criminal responsibility.”

“His guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt,” presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said . “This case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a fully responsible adult as a commander of the LRA in his mid-to-late 20s”.

The court threw out Ongwen’s defence that he was abducted as a nine year old boy and brainwashed to join the reel outfit and was therefore a victim of circumstances.

The court ruled that evidence produced by the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 45-year-old former LRA commander committed the atrocities out of his own will.

The ICC also threw out Ongwen’s claims that he was not mentally stable. “The chamber did not find evidence for the claim by the defence that he suffered from any mental disease or that he committed the crimes under duress.”

The court is now expected to pronounce itself on the punishment to be given to Ongwen having been convicted.

The Ugandan government in 2005 referred five top LRA leaders including Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Dominic Ongwen and Odhiambo Okot to the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda.

However, of these, only Ongwen and Kony are still alive with the rest believed to have been killed. 

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