by Rachel Ogbu
The International Criminal Court is hearing the case of former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen who has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes. He was one of the world’s most wanted criminals for years before he surrounded.
Once a child soldier, the court has heard how Ongwen rose through the ranks of Joseph Kony’s rebel group in Uganda.
He’s been accused of slaughtering locals in a campaign of terror across Uganda.
Prosecutor Ben Gumpert told judges: ‘Witnesses tell of how he instructed his personal escorts to administer dreadful beatings and… even, on at least one occasion, to kill, cook and eat civilians who had been abducted in attacks.’
It was also said that from 2002 to 2005, Ongwen ‘bears significant responsibility’ for ‘terrifying attacks’ in northern Uganda when civilians were treated by the rebel group as ‘the enemy’.
‘This was not just a civil war between people in uniform, Mr Gumpert said. ‘The LRA attacked ordinary Ugandan citizens who wanted no more than to live their lives.
‘Large numbers lost their lives in indiscriminate acts of murder. Some were tortured in cruel ways.
‘Hundreds were abducted to carry away the loot, and if they could not walk fast enough, they were beaten.’
‘Nursing mothers whose babies slowed up the progress or who simply cried too loudly saw them killed or thrown into the bush and left behind,’ Gumpert said.
Following the hearing, the judges will then have to determine if Ongwen should stand trial. Ten of the charges against Ongwen were kept secret for ‘security reasons’.
Lawyers for Ongwen, who pleads not guilty, will argue for the charges to be dropped next week.
A former child-soldier-turned-warlord, Ongwen, whose surname translates to ‘White Ant’ in his native Acholi language, was Kony’s one-time deputy.