Thursday, January 22, 2015

LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen Arrives at Hague Court
LRA commander Dominic Ongwen in the Central African Republic.
BBC World Service

Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has arrived in The Hague to stand trial on war crimes charges.

Mr Ongwen, a feared commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), was taken into custody at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on arrival.

He was arrested in the Central African Republic (CAR) earlier this month.

His trial will be the first time that a member of the LRA, led by the notorious warlord Joseph Kony, has faced international justice.

Mr Ongwen will appear before a judge on Monday, and will be informed of the charges against him, the ICC said in a statement.

They include four counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and enslavement.

His transfer "brings us one step closer to ending the LRA's reign of terror", ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

Uganda agreed that Mr Ongwen should be tried by the ICC despite being a fierce critic of The Hague-based court.

US and African forces had been searching for him since 2011.
He is said to be the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony, who is still on the run.
Who is Dominic Ongwen?
Said to have been abducted by LRA, aged 10, as he walked to school in northern Uganda
Rose to become a top commander
Accused of crimes against humanity, including enslavement
ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005
Rumoured to have been killed in the same year
US offered $5m (£3.3m) reward for information leading to his arrest in 2013
The ICC has said that Mr Ongwen will be held in a detention centre in the Netherlands until his trial, and will undergo a medical visit.

The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both issued statements welcoming Mr Ongwen's transfer from the Central African Republic. Mr Ban called it "a step forward in efforts to bring justice to the thousands of victims of LRA violence".

His transfer from the CAR to The Hague "is a welcome development in the international community's campaign to counter the LRA's dehumanising violence, and to bring perpetrators to justice after more than two decades of the LRA's brutal campaign of torture, rape and murder", US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said.

The US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, but it facilitated his transfer to the ICC.

It offered a $5m (£3.3m) reward in 2013 for information leading to Mr Ongwen's arrest.

He said that after years of hiding in the forests it was time to face the charges against him.

His extradition comes nearly 10 years after he and four other LRA top commanders were charged.

Three have since died and only Mr Kony remains at large.

Mr Ongwen is accused of committing atrocities against civilians in Uganda and in parts of Central African Republic, South Sudan and DR Congo.

The LRA rebellion began more than two decades ago in northern Uganda and its estimated 200-500 fighters - many of them child soldiers - have since terrorised large swathes of central Africa.

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