Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday ruled that there was enough evidence to put former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, Dominic Ongwen on trial for crimes committed in Uganda, including sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.
The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC confirmed 70 charges brought against the Ongwen by the ICC Prosecutor saying “there are substantial grounds to believe that Dominic Ongwen is responsible” for crimes which include murder, rape, sexual slavery and torture as well as recruiting child soldiers.
The confirmation of charges paves the way for a trial on the alleged crimes.
Ongwen who surrendered early last year and was handed over to the ICC, is the only senior LRA commander in the court’s custody.
The “White Ant” as he is also known in his native Acholi language, Ongwen is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the rebel group’s reign of terror between 2002 and 2005 in northern Uganda.
Prosecutors at a confirmation of charges hearing in January told the ICC that Ongwen was the “tip of the spear” of the LRA, which is accused of slaughtering more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion against Kampala which began in 1986.
Ongwen, himself a child soldier who rose through the ranks to become a commander of the LRA, is said to have ordered the killings of civilians as well as the abduction and enslavement of children as the group attacked villages across northern Uganda.
Some rights groups have argued that Ongwen was himself initially a victim, having been abducted at age 14 by the LRA as he was walking to school — which may prove a mitigating factor in sentencing if he is found guilty at trial.
The LRA’s main leader, Joseph Kony remains on the run despite an intense manhunt backed by US special forces.
So far this year, the LRA has captured more than 200 people in the CAR, a quarter of them children, human rights groups said earlier this month.
_AFP / News Agencies _