International Criminal Court

  1. A trial of firsts as LRA commander is sentenced


    Patience Atuhaire

    BBC News, Kampala

    Dominic Ongwen
    Image caption: The ex-Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been jailed for war crimes and crimes against humanity

    Dominic Ongwen, the Ugandan rebel commander who has just been sentenced to 25 years in jail, was the first former child solider to be convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) - and his case has raised debate over whether he should be treated as a victim or a perpetrator.

    He was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on his way to primary school in the late 1980s.

    It was also the first case in which the issue of sexual and gender-based crimes took centre stage at the ICC.

    In February, Ongwen was found guilty of sexual slavery, forced marriage and rape of seven women who were abducted and placed into his household - in addition to murder, attempted and torture.

    His conviction meant that victims could start the process of seeking reparations.

    At the height of his time with the LRA, Ongwen was the commander of the Sinia brigade, and of the fiercest fighters in the rebel movement.

    He turned himself in to US forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2015 - and they later handed him over to the Ugandan army.

    Arrest warrants for the LRA leader Joseph Kony and other top commanders of the movement remain outstanding.

    The LRA terrorised Uganda’s north and eastern regions for nearly two decades beginning in the late 1980s, before fleeing to then Southern Sudan.

    Despite the untold suffering meted out on communities in these regions, the Acholi - Ongwen’s ethnic group - feel strongly that he should have been given the opportunity to go through "Mat Oput", their form of traditional justice, which involves reconciliation and community reintegration.

    Since the war ended in northern Uganda, hundreds of former LRA abductees and fighters have benefited from the government amnesty programme and have returned to their homes. Some have gone through Mat Oput.

    Mr Kony and the LRA remain at large, and have continued to kill, abduct and loot in CAR, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  2. 'More needs to be done' for Ugandan war crime victims

    Ugandan justice advocate Sarah Kihika Kasande has said Thursday's sentencing of Dominic Ongwen sends a message that perpetrators of crime will be held accountable.

    Ms Kasande also told NBS television that more needed to be done for the victims of the war crimes in northern Uganda.

    "The rest of the criminals should be held accountable domestically or internationally because Ongwen didn't commit these crimes alone," she said.

  3. Why one judge differed on Ongwen's sentence

    The International Criminal Court's Trial Chamber IX Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt has explained how the court arrived at 25 years imprisonment for rebel commander Dominic Ongwen.

    He said the decision was not unanimous.

    Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan had proposed a 30-year jail term, saying Mr Ongwen's background should not overshadow the victims' suffering.

    The presiding judge later said the 25 years was arrived at by the majority of the judges.

  4. ICC hands LRA's Dominic Ongwen a 25-year jail term

    BBC World Service

    Dominic Ongwen

    A Ugandan former child soldier who became a commander of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has been sentenced to 25 years in jail by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    Dominic Ongwen, known as White Ant, was convicted in February of more than 60 crimes including murder, torture, rape and sexual enslavement.

    Prosecutors argued that Mr Ongwen receive a lower prison term because he had been abducted by the LRA as a child.

    The rebel movement was formed more than 30 years ago, operating in Uganda and neighbouring countries.

    It mutilated people by cutting off parts of their faces.

    Read more:

  5. ICC upholds conviction of DR Congo's 'Terminator'

    BBC World Service

    Bosco Ntaganda
    Image caption: Bosco Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted by the ICC of sexual slavery

    The International Criminal Court has upheld the war crimes conviction against the Congolese rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda.

    The former commander - who was named the Terminator because of his brutality - had appealed against his 30-year jail sentence given to him in 2019.

    He was found guilty on 18 counts including murder, rape and using child soldiers and was the first person to be convicted by the court for sexual slavery.

    The charges related to crimes carried out in the mineral- rich Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003.

    Read more: Bosco Ntaganda sentenced to 30 years for crimes in DR Congo

  6. Auschwitz camp gates

    Genocide is among the gravest crimes against humanity, but there is debate over which historical crimes qualify.

    Read more
  7. Race to succeed Fatou Bensouda at ICC

    Emmanuel Igunza

    BBC News, Nairobi

    Fatou Bensouda
    Image caption: The chief prosecutor's term ends in June

    Britain’s Karim Khan has emerged as the front-runner to become the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    BBC News Africa has learnt that Mr Khan is now one of only four candidates in contention to replace Gambian Fatou Bensouda, whose term expires in June.

    The other five candidates, including a Nigerian and Uganda judge, have dropped out of the intensive process which requires lobbying and securing the support of voting members.

    The other remaining candidates are Fergal Gaynor from Ireland, Spaniard Ferdinand Carlos Castresana and Italian prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi.

    The elections will be held in New York later on Friday as 123 member states of the Rome Statute - the law that set up the ICC - meet for their general assembly.

    Mrs Bensouda has been the ICC’s chief prosecutor since 2011, after replacing Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo.

    During her tenure, she secured more convictions than her predecessor - the latest being the historic case of former Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen who was this month convicted of war crimes.

    But the ICC has also faced sharp criticism, mainly that it's targeted Africans.

    Last June, Mrs Bensouda was banned from traveling to the US after the then American President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing financial sanctions on her.

  8. ICC trial of former CAR militia leaders postponed

    Seydina Alioune Djigo

    BBC News

    Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona
    Image caption: Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona described himself as the political co-ordinator of the anti-Balaka

    The trial of two Central African Republic (CAR) rebel leaders, scheduled to open at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday, has been postponed to 16 February.

    Alfred Yékatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona face 21 and 32 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity respectively.

    The alleged crimes include intentionally directing an attack against civilian population. They will be tried jointly as the charges relate to the same attacks.

    Mr Ngaïssona has previously denied all the charges.

    The CAR was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when predominately Muslim rebels from the Seleka group seized power in the majority Christian country.

    Seleka rebels
    Image caption: Seleka rebels briefly held power in 2013

    A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, rose up to counter the Seleka after President François Bozizé was ousted.

    Thousands died in subsequent clashes and the United Nations (UN) said more than a million people were forced to flee their homes.

    Mr Ngaïssona was the self-declared political coordinator of anti-Balaka forces.

    Anti-Balaka child soldiers
    Image caption: Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona is accused of recruiting child soldiers

    In this role, the ICC says he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers.

    The trial of Mr Ngaïssona and Mr Yékatom will start weeks after the CAR handed over Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the Seleka faction, to the ICC over alleged crimes committed in the capital, Bangui, in 2013.

  9. Ugandans gather to watch Ongwen's ICC war crimes trial

    Patience Atuhaire

    BBC News, Kampala

    Ugandans following the ICC proceedings for the case of former rebel commander Dominic Ongwen

    Ugandans in Gulu city watched the live stream of the trial of former rebel commander Dominic Ongwen.

    They gathered at three separate venues with the hall at St Monica Girls Technical School fully packed with mostly women following the proceedings translated to their local Acholi language.

    The ICC office in Kampala is doing the broadcasts at 25 different locations, including the four former camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) where Ongwen is believed to have been in command of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel forces when they were attacked between 2003 and 2004.

    One of these venues is Bar-Olik Forest Ward, a camp for internally displaced people just outside Gulu city centre, where most of the residents are people who either could not find their way back home, or thought their families may not take them back perhaps because of the atrocities they committed.

    People at the camp have gathered in a tent under a tree to watch the court session. Hundreds of those watching today across the northern region would have been former LRA abductees and even fighters.

    In the nearly two decades when the LRA rampaged through the region, thousands of families lost loved ones. Many are still considered missing.

    Ugandans following the ICC proceedings for the case of former rebel commander Dominic Ongwen

    Since 2000, an estimated 25,0000 people have benefited from the provisions of the amnesty law and returned home.

    They have been integrated back into the community having gone through Mato Oput - the traditional justice system which focuses on forgiveness and reconciliation.

    The LRA remains active in DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan where they have continued to loot, murder and abduct people.

    ICC warrants of arrest for the leader Joseph Kony and one other top commander are still out.

    Read more:

  10. ICC to deliver verdict on Lord’s Resistance Army commander

    Patience Atuhaire

    BBC News, Kampala

    Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
    Image caption: Dominic Ongwen was recruited as a child into the LRA

    The International Criminal Court in the Hague will on Thursday deliver a verdict for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen.

    He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, for atrocities committed in Uganda’s northern region.

    The rebel group that he and others commanded terrorised the country’s entire northern region for nearly two decades, murdering and abducting people.

    It was a brutal conflict in which the LRA, led by Joseph Kony, forced children to commit atrocities against their own families.

    Dominic Ongwen himself was abducted as a schoolboy and was later trained and turned into one of the rebel outfit’s fiercest fighters.

    One of the issues in the trial has been the victim versus perpetrator debate.

    His legal team argued that he cannot be held responsible for atrocities he was trained and brainwashed to commit and have asked for him to be acquitted.

    The prosecution said he could have left the rebel movement when he became an adult at the age of 18.

    The Acholi community which the 45-year-old is from has its own traditional justice system, which focuses on forgiveness and reconciliation.

    Many here feel that the former rebel commander should have been given the chance to be judged by his people.

    In the years since the LRA left northern Uganda, the community has tried to pick up the pieces and rebuild. But the effects of the conflict will be felt for generations.

    The ruling by the ICC will be the first to be dealing with crimes by the LRA.