A former Lord’s Resistance Army commander ordered his men to cook and eat the flesh of abducted civilians and used rape to turn children into sex slaves or soldiers, a court has heard.
Dominic Ongwen, himself a former child soldier who rose
through the ranks of Joseph Kony’s rebel group, is also accused
of slaughtering locals.
Surrendering last January after years on the run as one of the world’s most wanted criminals, he faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
Scroll down for video
Dominic Ongwen (pictured), a former commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army, stands in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is facing war crimes charges
Prosecutors say he ordered his men to cook and eat the flesh of captured civilians and used rape and brutalisation to turn children into child soldiers
Today’s confirmation of charges hearing is a test for
prosecutors who must convince judges that their case, hastily
reinvestigated since his surrender, is strong enough to merit a trial.
Prosecutor Ben Gumpert told judges Kony found children
easiest to shape by a process of brutalisation into the fighters
he needed. Ongwen, by turns generous and cruel, played a role in
‘Witnesses tell of how he instructed his personal escorts to
administer dreadful beatings and… even, on at least one
occasion, to kill, cook and eat civilians who had been abducted
in attacks,’ he said.
Ongwen had led attacks on four displaced persons camps into
which civilians had been driven by the LRA’s bloody campaign.
Many were killed and others were kidnapped and made to carry
away the loot.
Nursing mothers who could not keep up had their babies torn
from them and left behind in the bush, he said. A video taken by
Ugandan authorities showed thatched huts burned to the ground
and bodies in shallow graves in the aftermath of an attack.
Kony was indicted by the court in 2005 and remains one of
the world’s most notorious fugitives from justice.
indicted members of the group, which rose against Ugandan
President Yoweri Musuveni in the late 1980s, are believed dead.
Ongwen, born in 1975, was visibly ill at ease in an
environment very different from that in which he had spent his
life after being abducted as a child, rising to say he did not
need to hear the charge sheet.
‘It is all going to be a waste of time,’ he said.
Gumpert said Ongwen’s own traumatic childhood could at most
be a mitigating circumstance at sentencing.
‘Child abusers are
overwhelmingly likely to have been abused themselves as
children,’ he said.
Lawyers for Ongwen, who pleads not guilty, will argue for
the charges to be dropped next week.