A former senior commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, has been accused by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court of abducting children to be raped, enslaved or trained as soldiers in its long campaign against the Ugandan government.
Dominic Ongwen, a one-time child soldier who became a senior LRA commander appeared at the ICC in the Hague on Thursday for a confirmation of charges hearing.
The former LRA leader who surrendered in the Central African Republic in January 2015 after years on the run is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda.
Prosecution lawyer Ben Gumpert said Ongwen had significantly contributed to terrifying attacks on four Displaced Persons Camps into which civilians had been driven by the LRA’s bloody campaign.
The confirmation of charges hearing for Dominic Ongwen which began on Thursday, January 21, 2016, is expected to last five days.
The hearing is to determine if the prosecutors have enough evidence that Ongwen actually committed each of the crimes for which he’s charged and must face a full trial on the facts.
If the charges are confirmed, the Pre-Trial Chamber will commit the case for trial before a Trial Chamber.
Ongwen appeared visibly ill at ease in court, an environment very different from that in which he had spent most of his life since being abducted aged 10. He rose briefly to confirm that he did not need to hear the charges read.
Defence lawyers are expected to push at a session next week for the charges against Ongwen to be thrown out.
Human Rights Watch has described Thursday’s hearing for the former LRA commander as an important step for accountability for grave crimes committed in northern Uganda.