The Prosecutor v. Ongwen
Allegations & Charges
The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) alleges that Dominic Ongwen was Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and that Mr. Ongwen was, along with Joseph Kony (Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the LRA) and Vincent Otti (Vice-Chairman and Second-in-Command of the LRA), a member of the “Control Altar,” which is the leadership group that conceived of, planned, and implemented LRA strategy which included campaigns to attack civilian settlements and standing orders to attack, abduct, and loot civilians.
From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Ongwen, as alleged by the OTP, did the following: (1) along with Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, and Bogi Bosco, planned and implemented an October 2003 attack upon Pajule IDP Camp which was carried out by LRA forces; (2) along with Joseph Kony and other Sinia and Trinkle Brigade Commanders, planned and implemented an April 2004 attack upon Odek IDP Camp which was carried out by LRA forces; (3) planned and implemented a May 2004 attack upon Lukodi IDP camp which was carried out by LRA forces; and (4) planned and implemented a June 2004 attack upon Abok IDP Camp which was carried out by LRA forces. Mr. Ongwen’s ordered attacks included not only murders of civilians, physical beatings and physical mutilations of civilians, and forced marches and forced labor under threat of death, but also the abduction and enslavement of women and girls as sexual slaves and forced conjugal partners and the abduction and enlistment of children as forced fighters.
Please visit the Court’s website for more information on The Prosecutor v. Ongwen.
Dominic Ongwen is charged under a number of different modes of liability outlined in the Rome Statute:
Committing atrocity crimes as an individual, jointly with another or through another person (Article 25(3)(a))
Ordering, soliciting, or inducing the commission of these crimes (Article 25(3)(b))
Intentionally contributing to the commission or attempted commission of atrocity crimes by a group, with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or purpose of the perpetrators (Article 25(3)(d)(i)), and with knowledge of the perpetrators’ intention to commit these crimes (Article 25(3)(d)(ii))
Attempting to commit atrocity crimes by taking action that commences their execution by means of a substantial step, but the crime does not occur because of circumstances independent of the person’s intentions (Article 25(3)(f))
Having effective command and control over forces that committed these crimes, failing to exercise control properly (Article 28(a))
Mr. Ongwen is charged with the following atrocity crimes (70 counts total):
Directing an Attack against Civilians (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(i)
Murder (and attempted murder) (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(a)
Murder (and attempted murder) (War Crime): Article 8(2)(c)(i)-1
Torture (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(f)
Torture (War Crime): Article 8(2)(c)(i)-4
Cruel Treatment of Civilians (War Crime): Article 8(2)(c)(i)-3
Inhumane Acts (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(k)
Enslavement (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(c)
Pillaging (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(v)
Persecution (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(h)
Outrages upon Personal Dignity (War Crime): Article 8(2)(c)(ii)
Destruction of Property (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(xii)
Forced Marriage (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(k)
Rape (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(g)-1
Rape (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(vi)-1
Sexual Slavery (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(g)-2
Sexual Slavery (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(vi)-2
Forced Pregnancy (Crime against Humanity): Article 7(1)(g)-4
Forced Pregnancy (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(vi)-4
Conscription and Use of Child Soldiers (War Crime): Article 8(2)(e)(vii)
Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a sealed arrest warrant for Dominic Ongwen on July 8, 2005, which was unsealed on October 13, 2005. Mr. Ongwen surrendered in the Central African Republic on January 16, 2015 and was transferred to ICC custody on January 17, 2015. Mr. Ongwen made an initial appearance before Pretrial Chamber II on January 26, 2015.
Pre-Trial Chamber II severed the proceedings against Mr. Ongwen from the case on February 6, 2015 due to the absence of other suspects (Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, and Okot Odhiambo) whose whereabouts were still unknown and the risk of serious prejudice to Mr. Ongwen’s defense from further delay in the proceedings.
On March 23, 2016, Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges; on April 29, 2016, Pre-Trial Chamber II rejected the Defence’s request for leave to appeal issues in the confirmation of charges decision. Trial Chamber IX later set the trial commencement date for December 6, 2016.
On February 4, 2021, Trial Chamber IX found Mr. Ongwen guilty (summary) of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed both directly and indirectly in northern Uganda from July 2002 to December 2005. The crimes included those committed as part of attacks against the civilian population in four specific attacks on internally displaced person camps (Pajule, Odek, Lukodi and Abok), sexual and gender-based crimes committed against women abducted and placed in Ongwen’s household, sexual and gender-based crimes committed against other women and girls within the Sinia Brigade (which Mr. Ongwen commanded), and the conscription and use of child soldiers.
On May 6, 2021, Mr. Ongwen was sentenced (summary) to 25 years in prison. The Trial Chamber considered the particular cruelty and discrimination (political and gender-based) of the crimes committed to be aggravated factors, and considered (to some extent) the mitigating personal circumstances of Mr. Ongwen’s abduction as a child by the LRA. The Chamber rejected arguments of mitigating factors as to culpability.
There were 4,095 victims granted rights to participate in the proceedings, represented in two separate groups by legal representatives.
The next phases in the Ongwen case are appeal of the verdict and sentence (if pursued by the parties) and the opening of the reparations phase.
More on the Ongwen trial (non-ABA resources):
ICC Case Information Sheet
Ongwen Trial Monitoring from International Justice Monitor
Human Rights Watch, Q&A: The LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen and the ICC
International Federation for Human Rights, Q&A on the Dominic Ongwen Case at the ICC
Open Society Justice Initiative, Briefing Paper, The Trial of Dominic Ongwen at the ICC: The Judgment
Asymmetrical Haircuts Podcast Episodes, Justice Update: First LRA Verdict, Justice Update: End of the Road for Ongwen Trial, Justice Update: Sarah Kasande on Ongwen at the ICC
Justice in Conflict Blog, Symposium, Life and Trials of Dominic Ongwen
Decision severing the case against Dominic OngwenSevering of the cases of Dominic Ongwen and Joseph Kony et al. : February 6, 2015
Statement of ICC SpokespersonConfirmation of Charges : March 24, 2016
Decision on the confirmation of charges