Ugandan former child soldier sentenced to 25 years for war crimes

Ugandan former child soldier sentenced to 25 years for war crimes
Dominic Ongwen (AP)

The International Criminal Court has sentenced a Ugandan former child soldier who turned into a brutal rebel commander to 25 years in jail.

Judges said that Dominic Ongwen’s own abduction as a schoolboy and history as a child soldier prevented him from being sentenced to life.

He was convicted in February of a total of 61 war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, forced marriage and using child soldiers as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

His lawyers have said they will appeal against the conviction.

The chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation

Bertram Schmitt, presiding judge

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 wilfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims,” Judge 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, wearing a face mask and headphones, showed no emotion as he heard that the three-judge panel had given him a sentence five years longer than the 20 years prosecutors requested.

Ongwen’s defence lawyers have always cast him as a victim of the LRA’s brutality who was traumatised after being abducted as a nine-year-old boy and turned into a child soldier in the group’s violent insurgency.

But judges in February ruled that he committed the crimes “as a fully responsible adult, as a commander of the LRA in his mid to late 20s”.

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