NEWS– The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier who became one of the top commanders of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, to 25 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Uganda.
The 45-year-old in February was found guilty of 61 charges including murders, rapes and sexual enslavement during a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony.
Announcing his 25-year prison term, ICC Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said that judges had to weigh Ongwen’s brutality with his own tortured past when deciding on a sentence.
“The chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation. It is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims,” Schmitt said.
“However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering himself at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader.”
Ongwen, who was present in The Hague-based court showed no emotion as he heard the sentence handed down to him.
Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year prison term for Ongwen, saying his own history as a schoolboy abducted by the LRA justified a lower sentence than the maximum 30 years to life allowed by the ICC.
“This is one circumstance that sets this case apart from all the others tried at this court,” ICC prosecution lawyer Colin Black told a sentencing hearing at the Netherlands-based court in April.
Victims of his crimes had asked the court to impose the full life sentence, however, while the defence had sought a 10-year prison term.
The LRA was founded 30 years ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni. It has now largely been wiped out by the UPDF.
But its brutal campaign to set up a state based on Kony’s interpretation of the Bible’s Ten Commandments left more than 100,000 people dead and 60,000 children abducted, according to the United Nations.