The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday upheld the conviction of Ugandan child soldier Dominic Ongwen, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Isn’t a child soldier a victim?
Ongwen’s prosecution was for his actions as an adult. Abducted on his way to school at the age of nine by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was led by fugitive Joseph Kony, Ongwen later became a top commander of the LRA. The trial lasted six years, resulting in his conviction last year for murder, rape, and sexual slavery in northern Uganda in the early 2000s. “The appeals chamber rejects all the grounds of appeal presented by the defense and unanimously confirms the decision on the guilt of Mr. Ongwen”, said presiding judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez, Carranza.
What was the argument of the defense?
The appeal had been based on more than 100 grounds, part of which was that Ongwen was a “scapegoat” for the rebel movement. Ongwen received a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including forced pregnancy. His lawyers had prayed the court to overturn his conviction and sentence because he had been a victim of the LRA as a child soldier. “Dominic Ongwen was, and still is, a child,” his lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo told the court in February. The LRA is reported to have terrorized large areas of central Africa for three decades, kidnapping children, maiming civilians, and enslaving women. It was founded in Uganda in the 1980s by former choirboy Joseph Kony – who is now on the run – with the aim of imposing a Ten Commandments regime. “The appeals chamber wishes to recognize the extreme suffering endured by the victims of Dominic Ongwen’s crimes during the period covered by the charges,” the judge said.