A former senior commander with the Lord’s Resistance Army accused of committing atrocities against humanity, including enslavement of child soldiers, was scheduled to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) Monday in his first appearance since being handed over to the U.S. earlier this month. Dominic Ongwen, himself a former child soldier before rising through the ranks of the Ugandan rebel group, has been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes, according to the ICC.
A live stream of Ongwen’s first court appearance at the ICC’s headquarters in the Hague, Netherlands, can be viewed here through the ICC’s website. The purpose of the hearing was to verify Ongwen’s identity as well as establish which language will be used for the proceedings. A judge was expected to inform Ongwen of the charges against him. “Ongwen's transfer brings us one step closer to ending the LRA's reign of terror in the African Great Lakes region,” the ICC said in a statement last week. “For more than a quarter of a century, the LRA under Joseph Kony and his high command, that includes Ongwen, have terrorized the people of Northern Uganda and neighboring countries.”
The LRA has operated in central Africa since the late 1980s. The militant group, believed to be hiding out in South Sudan or Central African Republic, has killed an estimated 100,000 people and abducted tens of thousands of children into its rebellion.
The ICC issued Ongwen’s arrest warrant in 2005. He was captured in the Central African Republic in December by the Muslim rebel group Seleka, which received a monetary reward for handing the notorious LRA commander over to the U.S. at the beginning of January.
Ongwen’s own abduction into the LRA at the age of 10 may soften his sentence should he be found guilty, human rights groups have said. "The ICC has accused him, in part, of the same crimes that were initially perpetrated against him," Ledio Cakaj, a Washington-based independent researcher, told the Agence France-Presse.