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Captured LRA Commander Appears Before ICC

  • Lisa Bryant

Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan commander in warlord Joseph Kony's feared militia, waits for the judge to arrive as he made his first appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 26, 2015.

Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan commander in warlord Joseph Kony's feared militia, waits for the judge to arrive as he made his first appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 26, 2015.

A top leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army, formerly based in Uganda, appeared for the first time before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, ending a years-long search to bring him to justice.

Dominique Ongwen, who faces war crimes and crimes against humanity charges, has been wanted for more than a decade by the International Criminal Court. On Monday, he stood before the court in The Hague for a first appearance.

Wearing a dark blue suit and a tie, Ongwen introduced himself to the court in the Acholi language that is widely spoken in his native northern Uganda. He said he was abducted in 1988 and taken into the bush at the age of 14. He said he had been a soldier for the Lord's Resistance Army.

He also thanked God for creating heaven, Earth - and its people.

After giving himself up last month in Central African Republic, Ongwen was arrested and extradited to the Hague court. He faces charges that include murder, enslavement, inhumane acts and directing attacks against civilians. All date to a 2004 attack on a camp for displaced people in northern Uganda.

He is among several top LRA members wanted by the Hague tribunal.

Now 34, Ongwen rose through the ranks from child soldier. His lawyers are expected to use this troubled past as an argument for leniency.

Still at large is LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is also Ugandan. He too is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. He is being pursued by U.S. special forces and regional troops.

In the late 1980s, LRA rebels rose up against the government in northern Uganda. They left the country more than a decade ago, and have since been moving around the region, accused of terrorizing communities in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and finally CAR.

Presiding judge Ekaterina Trendafilova set Ongwen's next appearance for August. Those hearings will then determine whether or not he will face trial.

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