The International Criminal Court has sentenced Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment. He was found guilty of a total of 61 crimes comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Following the trial judgment Thursday, Mr Ongwen was convicted for the crimes he committed in Northern Uganda between July 1, 2002, and December 31, 2005, a statement by the court read.

Mr Ongwen had been held in custody for six years (from January 2015 till date). This will be deducted from the total time of imprisonment imposed on him, the statement noted. The sentence can also be appealed.

A summary of the court’s decision read at the Hague-based court, in the Netherlands, by presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt noted that the Chamber was confronted with evidence of a perpetrator “who wilfully and lucidly brought tremendous suffering upon his victims.”

“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.”

For this reason, the court decided to give certain weight in mitigation to the circumstances of Mr Ongwen’s sentencing, the court’s statement explained.

Genesis

As a child, Mr Ongwen was abducted and tortured by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a weakened rebel and heterodox Christian group listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and accused of widespread human rights violations and war crimes.

But he would become a major at 18 and brigadier of the Sinia Brigade in his twenties, one of the four LRA brigades of the militia group, and lead forces to attack civilian populations around the swathes of central and east Africa.

For instance, in December 2009, the LRA forces under his command killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others during a four-day rampage on Makombo, a village in the DR Congo.

Over these allegations, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Mr Ongwen alongside LRA founder, Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and the army commander Okot Odhiambo.

All four LRA leaders were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ruling

While the defence argued that Mr Ongwen had limited mental capacity and acted under duress when he joined the guerilla forces, the court rejected the argument.

The court also rejected the arguments of the defence praying for traditional justice mechanisms. The joint judgment noted that there was no equivalent under the court’s statute to replace a term of imprisonment with traditional justice mechanisms.

After analysing the gravity of each of the 61 crimes, for which Mr Ongwen was convicted, one after the other, the court said it found “several aggravating circumstances applicable to some or even most crimes.”

These aggravating circumstances included particular cruelty, the multiplicity of victims, the victims being particularly defenceless, and discrimination on political grounds and discrimination against women, with the highest individual sentences being punishable for 20 years.

It said it imposed individual sentences for each of the crimes, having taken into account Mr Ongwen’s childhood and torture in the hands of the LRA.

Due to this, the chamber said it decided against life imprisonment and it envisages “a concrete prospect for Dominic Ongwen to eventually rebuild his life.”

The case against Mr Ongwen was opened in 2016, and earlier this year he was convicted of 61 charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes before he was sentenced Thursday.

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