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ICC to Hear Ugandan LRA Commander's Appeal


Dominic Ongwen, center, a senior commander in the Lord's Resistance Army, sits in the court room of the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Dec. 6, 2016.

The International Criminal Court will next week hear an appeal by Ugandan former Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen against his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ongwen, a former child soldier in the notorious rebel group led by the fugitive Joseph Kony in the early 2000s, was sentenced by the ICC in May last year to 25 years in jail for murder, rape and sexual enslavement.

Ongwen, whose nom de guerre was "White Ant," had protested his innocence and cited his own history of being kidnapped while on his way to school by the LRA, and brutalized.

"The appeal brought against the conviction is the largest ever considered by the chamber, raising complex and novel issues," the ICC said in a statement announcing the appeal hearings, which will run from Monday to Friday.

Ongwen's lawyers have raised 90 grounds of appeal against the verdict and 11 against the sentence, alleging "legal, factual and procedural errors" by the court, the Hague-based ICC said.

The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni.

Its brutal campaign to set up a state based on the Bible's Ten Commandments left more than 100,000 people dead and 60,000 children abducted, eventually spreading to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Ongwen handed himself in to the ICC in 2015 and was convicted of 61 charges. He was also the first person convicted by the ICC of the crime of forced pregnancy.

Judges said in their verdict that Ongwen personally ordered his soldiers to carry out massacres of more than 130 civilians at the Lukodi, Pajule, Odek and Abok refugee camps between 2002 and 2005.

Civilians were locked in their homes and burned to death or beaten during the massacres, while mothers were made to transport the LRA's loot, forcing them to abandon their infant children by the roadside.

But the court held back from the maximum possible 30-year sentence for his crimes, saying that his traumatic past as a child soldier was a mitigating factor.

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