Prosecution experts to challenge Ongwen's mental incapacity defence

15 March 2018 by Tjitske Lingsma, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The prosecution is wrapping up its case against Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army almost a year after the trial started at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the coming weeks they will call three experts who have assessed whether Ongwen suffered a mental disorder at the time of the alleged atrocities which destroyed his capacity to understand he committed crimes. 

Former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen at the start of his ICC trial in 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
Image caption: 
Former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen at the start of his ICC trial in 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)

The trial of Dominic Ongwen is that of victim turned victimizer. At a young age Ongwen was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the notorious Northern Ugandan rebel group known for its cruelty. He was conscripted as a child soldier, subjected to harsh treatment and deprived of a normal life. Ongwen climbed the LRA ranks and became commander of a unit called Sinia Brigade. In January 2015, after more than twenty years in the bush, Ongwen surrendered to a local militia in the Central African Republic. Through US forces, Ugandan military and CAR authorities he was handed to the ICC. On 21 January 2015 he arrived at the detention centre in The Hague. 

The ICC charged him with 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes which include attacks against civilians, murder, torture, enslavement, forced marriage, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, destruction of property, persecution and the conscription and use of child soldiers. Ongwen clearly himself suffered at least one of the crimes for which he faces trial: conscripting child soldiers.

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