Ex-Ugandan warlord faces 20 years in jail

PROSECUTORS yesterday asked the International Criminal Court to sentence a former Ugandan child soldier who became a commander of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to at least 20 years in prison.

Dominic Ongwen, who was arrested in 2015, was convicted in February of dozens of crimes including rape, sexual enslavement, child abductions, torture and murder.

In a special hearing to discuss Ongwen’s punishment, prosecutors dismissed defence calls for a sentence of no more than 10 years and their argument that Ongwen is a victim because he was himself abducted as a child to fight in the LRA.

Ongwen pleaded not guilty and told judges he was himself a victim of LRA atrocities.

Prosecutors argued that his experiences as a child soldier did not diminish the gravity of his crimes.

Led by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorised Ugandans for nearly 20 years as it battled the government of President Yoweri Museveni from bases in northern Uganda and neighbouring countries. The LRA has been largely wiped out in recent years.

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Defence lawyers described Ongwen, who is in his mid-forties, as a mentally scarred person who could be kind to the soldiers and women under his authority. But prosecutors were quick to counter that image.

“By comparison, Mr Ongwen may not have been the cruelest, but he was also not the kind man and benevolent leader that the defence would have you believe,” prosecutor Beti Hohler said.

Ongwen’s lawyers were to make their case for a shorter prison term later on Wednesday. The tribunal has set no date for sentencing.

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