LRA’s Dominic Ongwen to appear at the ICC for pre-trial

Dominic Ongwen handed over to UPDF in CAR
Dominic Ongwen handed over to UPDF in CAR

Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen is today expected to make first appearance in court on charges of crimes against humanity.
Ongwen, 35, who was apprehended early this month near Samouandja province in Southeast Central African Republic (CAR) was indicted by The Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 for his role in war atrocities in Northern Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and CAR committed by LRA in the nearly last two decades of insurgency.
Court officials said last week that he will appear at 14hrs GMT+1 (about 4pm Ugandan time). He is expected to be represented by Ms Hélène Cisse, a Senegalese lawyer.
Ongwen, who ranked a ‘Major General’ at the time, is the first LRA commander to stand trial out of five LRA senior commanders whose arrest warrants court issued. He is expected to appear before the single judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II.
The ICC Public Affairs unit in a statement issued last week indicated that Ekaterina Trendafilova, a Bulgarian judge, will preside over the hearing of his first appearance.
Born to two school teachers Alexy Acayo and Ronald Owiya in paibona village, Awach Sub County in Gulu district. The fourth born of eight children was aged six when the LRA insurgency erupted and was 10 years old when he was abducte on way from school in 1990.
In captivity he was placed under the mentorship of Vincent Otti, another senior LRA commander, but reportedly assassinated in 2007 on orders of LRA commander Joseph Kony. Ongwen rose through the ranks in haste; at 14 he moved to Sudan where he oversaw field operations, went for training in Khartoum; at 18 was major in rank and by early 20s he was a brigadier, and one of the leaders of the LRA units in charge of military strategy.
He is said to have commanded the notorious LRA Sinia Brigade, which reportedly unloaded the unbridled terror in Northern Uganda between 2002 and 2004.
ICC further explained that the appointment of a defence laywer for Ongwen is temporary as the suspect has the right to be defended by a lawyer of his choice – as long as the chosen counsel meets the criteria for admission to the List of Counsel.
The government of Uganda, which made referral of Kony, Ongwen and others in 2003 and in whose names the arrest warrants were registered is also working separately to constitute a defence team for him.
Story by Fredrick Musisi.