WASHINGTON (dpa) – A top commander in a rebel group that has terrorised east and central Africa for decades is to be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), US and Ugandan officials said Tuesday.
Dominic Ongwen, 34, a leader in the Uganda-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was captured last week by US forces who are supporting the African Union’s forces in the Central African Republic (CAR).
“Finally it has been decided. Domnic Ongwen will be tried at the ICC in the Hague,” said Ugandan Defence Ministry spokesman Paddy Ankunda on Twitter.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the US troops would transfer Ongwen to the Africa Union regional task force, which will then hand him over to the Hague-based court.
The United States has never joined the International Criminal Court. Handing Ongwen over to the African Union would appear to enable the US to circumvent recognition of the court.
Harf said that the governments of Uganda and CAR consulted and agreed to the transfer. Ongwen will first be put into custody of the Ugandan military’s contingent of the African Union’s regional task force before his transfer to The Hague.
Uganda had originally wanted to try Ongwen on its own and did not want to send him to The Hague.
The Enough Project, a Washington-based activist group that works against genocide and crimes against humanity, greeted Ongwen’s transfer to the ICC as a “major victory for the thousands of LRA victims” and a chance for a fair trial for Ongwen.
“It’s also a welcome confirmation that the United States is increasingly supportive of the ICC’s efforts in this region,” said Holly Dranginis, an analyst with the organisation.
Ongwen himself was abducted by the LRA at age 10, according to the Enough Project. The group said the ICC decision meant the rebel commander would receive a “fair and thorough trial” that will consider the crimes committed against him as a child.
The LRA has led attacks and forcibly recruited child soldiers in northern Uganda since 1987. The group, which often crosses borders into South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, has been accused of murder, mutilation and child-sex slavery.