A pretrial hearing opened on Thursday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to assess whether evidence against Dominic Ongwen, a rebel commander in Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, is strong enough to warrant a war crimes trial.
In 2005, an ICC arrest warrant was issued for Ongwen on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were primarily related to rebel attacks on a refugee camp in Lukodi, Uganda, in May 2004. The charges included: attacks against the civilian population, murder and attempted murder, torture, enslavement, pillaging and destruction of property in addition to persecution, forced marriage, rape, sexual slavery, and conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities.
He was taken into ICC custody in January 2015, and first appeared before the court shortly after (pictured above).
Thursday's hearing, which is scheduled to last until January 26, is to confirm the charges against Ongwen. If it is determined that there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds that Ongwen committed the crimes, the case will move to trial.
Ongwen was kidnapped and forced into service for Kony's Lord's Resistance Army when he was 10 years old, but was 32 when he surrendered to authorities. The ICC has decided that children under the age of 18 who have been abducted and committed war crimes themselves ought to be treated as victims.
The Lord's Resistance Army wants to create a Christian theocratic state in Uganda based on Joseph Kony's interpretation of the Bible and the Ten Commandments. The rebels are known for brutal tactics against civilians, including the widespread use of child soldiers and violent executions. Since Kony's resistance began in 1987, it is estimated that 70,000 children have been abducted and over 100,000 people executed.
mz/sms (AFP, AP)