A former Ugandan child soldier who became a top commander in the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) old judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) he was not responsible for any atrocities and powerless to stop them.
In a defiant, sometimes meandering, unsworn statement to the court, Dominic Ongwen cast himself as a victim, saying he could not ask forgiveness for his alleged crimes because he was not responsible for them.
“I cannot ask everyone in northern Uganda for forgiveness when there were other people in northern Uganda who were corrupt, who were encouraging this (war),” he told judges.
Led by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorised Ugandans for nearly 20 years as it battled President Yoweri Museveni’s government from bases in northern Uganda and neighbouring countries. It has now largely been wiped out.
Ongwen, arrested in 2015, was convicted in February of crimes including rape, sexual enslavement, child abduction, torture and murder. Prosecutors want a prison sentence of at least 20 years for him.
“I did not have capacity to stop the things happening,” he said, adding his time in the LRA haunts him to this day and makes it hard to sleep.
“Every time I have hallucinations, I hear gun shots, I hear people talking. I see dead bodies, people I killed, people I slaughtered,” he told judges.
Ongwen spoke during a special hearing to discuss his punishment. Ongwen and his defence are calling for a maximum sentence of 10 years.