The former commander of rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Dominic Ongwen has been sentenced to 25 years in jail by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A panel of three justices led by Bertam Schmitt delivered the verdict today Thursday. The other judges on the panel are Peter Kouvacs and Raul Cano Pangalangan.
The justices noted that they decided to jail the former warlord for 25 years because of the magnitude of the atrocities he committed so as to deter similar offences in the future and prove the position of the world in condemning the atrocities committed by the LRA.
Justice Raul had opted for a 30-year jail term, saying on grounds that the 61 counts slapped against Ogwen were not light offences. According to the ICC, Ongwen will serve his sentence outside the ICC but in a yet-to-be-identified facility in one of the state parties to the ICC.
The judges also said that the process of reparation for the LRA victims will commence immediately. ICC convicted Ongwen, 45, in February this year on 61 crimes including rape, sexual enslavement, child abductions, torture and murder as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ongwen committed the crimes in northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005 in Abok, Lukodi, Odek and Pajule internally displaced camps. During the trial, the prosecutions led by Fatou Bensouda had asked the court to hand Ongwen over 25 years in jail.
However, Ongwen's defense team led by Cryspus Oyena asked the court to give their client a jail term of less than ten years because he was a victim of the same situation following his abduction as a young boy. Ongwen, who surrendered in 2015, is the first LRA top commander to be convicted by the ICC.
In July 2005, the court issued sealed arrest warrants for top five LRA commanders including Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. Lukwiya and Otti were killed in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Odhiambo’s body was found in the Central African Republic in early 2015 while Kony remains at large in the vast forests of the Central African Republic and DRC.
Kony, formerly an altar boy in the Catholic church in Odek Sub County founded the LRA about 30-years ago. The group is suspected to have led to the death of more than 100,000 people, abduction of 60,000 and displaced millions of people, according to the United Nations.