|Born||1975 (40 years old)
|Known for||Ex-commander in the Lord's Resistance Army|
|Home town||Gulu, Uganda|
Dominic Ongwen is the ex-commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that formerly operated in northern Uganda. As the head of one of the four LRA brigades, Ongwen was a member of the "Control Altar" of the LRA that directs military strategy. Ongwen was abducted by the LRA at the age of ten as he walked to school, and subsequently indoctrinated as an LRA fighter. He is currently detained by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and awaiting trial.
Ongwen was the lowest ranking of the five LRA leaders for whom the ICC issued their first ever warrants in June 2005. He is the only one who the court succeeded in detaining, and, with the exception of the leader, Joseph Kony, is the only one now left alive. He is charged with four counts of war crimes (murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population and pillaging) and three counts of crimes against humanity (murder, enslavement and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering). The charges all relate to an attack on a camp for internally displaced people in Uganda in 2004.
Report of death
Ongwen was reported killed in combat with a unit of the Uganda People's Defence Force on 10 October 2005, and the identity of the body was confirmed by former LRA commanders. However, in July 2006, the ICC reported that genetic fingerprinting of the body confirmed that it was not Ongwen's. News reports of the time put Ongwen in southwest Equatoria, Southern Sudan, attempting to rejoin LRA head Joseph Kony in Garamba, Ituri Province, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ongwen and a former wife featured in a film Picking up the Pieces by IRIN and released in October 2007. Uganda People's Defence Force spokesperson Maj. Felix Kulayije commented, "Unfortunately, the bastard is still alive."
Capture and arrest
On 6 January 2015, Ongwen escaped detention by Joseph Kony for the assistance he was apparently providing to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition. Kony's uncle, Kidego Quinto, and an American informed him that the US forces in the Central African Republic would treat him humanely if he surrendered. However, while on his way to surrender, he was captured by a Seleka rebel group who handed him over to the Americans in the hope of receiving the promised reward of $5m. However, the reward was never paid, and the Americans never publicly acknowledged the Seleka rebels' role in the capture. Ongwen was then transferred successively to the Ugandan forces, the Central African Republic forces, and ultimately to the ICC.
During the time between his arrest and his transfer to the ICC Ongwen participated in several media activities including a radio broadcast, meetings with journalists and a video recording in which he reveals why he gave himself up.
On 26 January 2015, Ongwen made his first appearance before the ICC, but the commencement of the confirmation of charges hearing was postponed in order to allow the Prosecutor to prepare adequately for the hearing and to comply with the Chamber's instructions.
Ongwen's case is unique because he himself was abducted by the LRA and forced to be a child soldier before rising to leadership. So this is the first ICC case in which an inductee is being charged with the same crimes as those done to him.
Notes and references
- "The complex story of a child soldier," by Ledio Cakaj, Washington Post, 12 January 2015
- Arrest Warrant for Dominic Ongwen (public and redacted PDF), International Criminal Court, 8 July 2005
- Submission of Information Regarding Dominic Ongwen (PDF), ICC, 5 October 2005
- Picking up the Pieces IRIN documentary, October 2007
- ICC Unseals Results of Dominic Ongwen DNA Tests, ICC Press release, 7 July 2006 and ‘Dead’ LRA chief alive, New Vision, 10 July 2006
- Chothia, Farouk Profile: Dominic Ongwen of Uganda's LRA BBC News, Africa, Retrieved 14 January 2015
- «Fin de cavale pour le chef de guerre ougandais Dominic Ongwen» sur Libération
- «LRA's Dominic Ongwen 'capture': Seleka rebels want $5m reward» sur le site de la BBC
- LRA commander Dominic Ongwen 'in Ugandan custody' BBC News, Africa, Retrieved 14 January 2015
- "Ugandan LRA rebel commander Dominic Ongwen to be tried at ICC: army," Daily Nation, 13 January 2015
- Dominic Ongwen reveals why he left Joseph Kony retrieved 6 March 2015
- Ongwen urges LRA comrades to surrender New Vision, 13 January 2015, retrieved 6 March 2015
- Surrendered LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen Says He Didn’t Want to Die in Bush TIME, 19 January 2015, retrieved 6 March 2015
- First Ugandan suspect, LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen, appears before the ICC Women's initiatives for gender justice 6 March 2015
- Ongwen case: Confirmation of charges hearing postponed to 21 January 2016 ICC 6 March 2015