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International Criminal Court Convicts Uganda Warlord

Lord's Resistance Army ex-commander Dominic Ongwen who is accused of participating in the LRA?s alleged crimes, sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 4, 2021. (ICC-CPI/Handout)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague Thursday convicted a Ugandan child soldier-turned-Lord's Resistance Army commander of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt announced the verdict, saying 45-year-old Dominic Ongwen was found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of 61 charges related to a reign of terror in the early 2000s, including widespread rape, sexual enslavement, child abductions, torture and murder, including killings of babies.

The court said Ongwen ordered attacks on refugee camps as a senior commander in the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which under its fugitive chief, Joseph Kony, waged a bloody campaign in four African nations to set up a state based on the Bible's Ten Commandments.

Ongwen sat in court, wearing a tie and face mask as a COVID-19 precaution, sometimes with his eyes closed as the verdict was read. His lawyers had argued he was, as a former child solder, a victim himself, and committed the atrocities under duress. Judges rejected that argument, saying he acted out of free will and as a responsible adult in committing "innumerable" crimes between 2002 and 2005, commanding several hundred soldiers.

Ongwen’s convictions, for the first time, included a verdict for the crime of forced pregnancy for atrocities committed against seven women. The court found that Ongwen ordered the killing and abduction of many civilians during attacks on camps protected by Ugandan government forces and personally took sex slaves, raped women and forced children to fight in hostilities.

The court noted that Ongwen's superior officer, LRA head Kony, has evaded justice for more than 15 years and called on countries to help secure his arrest and transfer to The Hague for trial.