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ICC Grants $56 Million in Reparations to Numerous Victims of Convicted Ugandan Rebel Leader”

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THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS — 

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday granted reparations of more than 52 million euros ($56 million) to thousands of victims of a convicted commander in the shadowy Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The nearly 50,000 victims covered by the order included former child soldiers and children born as a result of rapes and forced pregnancies.

Dominic Ongwen was convicted three years ago of 61 offenses, including murders, rapes, forced marriages and recruiting child soldiers in 2002-2005. An ICC appeals panel upheld his convictions and 25-year sentence in late 2022, setting the stage for an order for reparations.

“Tens of thousands of individuals suffered tremendous harm due to the unimaginable atrocities committed” as rebel fighters led by Ongwen attacked four camps for displaced people in northern Uganda, said Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt.

“Similarly, over 100 women and girls and thousands of children, boys and girls under the age of 15 suffered profound, multifaceted harm as a result of being kidnapped. Many were later subjected to sexual and gender based crimes and/or forced to serve as LRA soldiers, being kept in captivity with cruel methods of physical and psychological coercion,” he added.

Ongwen was not in court for the reparations hearing. While he is considered liable for the reparations, the court ruled that he is indigent and said the reparations will be paid by a trust fund for victims set up by the court’s member states.

Schmitt urged “states, organizations, corporations and private individuals to support the trust funds for victims’ mission and efforts and contribute to its fundraising activities.”

He said victims would each receive 750 euros ($812) as a “symbolic award” while other reparations would come in the form of community-based rehabilitation programs.

Evidence at Ongwen’s trial established that female civilians captured by the LRA were turned into sex slaves and wives for fighters. The LRA made children into soldiers. Men, women and children were murdered in attacks on camps for internally displaced people.

“The chamber concludes that the direct victims of the attacks, the direct victims of sexual and gender based crimes and the children born out of those crimes, as well as the former child soldiers, suffered serious and long-lasting physical, moral and material harm,” Schmitt said.

The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when one of the court’s most-wanted fugitives, Joseph Kony, sought to overthrow the government. After being pushed out of Uganda, the militia terrorized villages in Congo, Central Africa Republic and South Sudan.

Ongwen was among those abducted by the militia led by Kony. As a 9-year-old boy, he was transformed into a child soldier and later a senior commander responsible for attacks on camps for displaced civilians in northern Uganda in the early 2000s.

Defense lawyers portrayed him as a victim of LRA atrocities. But the judge who presided over his trial called Ongwen “a fully responsible adult” when he committed his crimes.

Activists welcomed his convictions for offenses against women, which included rape, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery.

Kony, whose whereabouts are unknown, faces 36 charges, including murder, torture, rape, persecution and enslavement. Prosecutors are seeking to hold a hearing into the evidence against him at the court in Kony’s absence.

The LRA leader was thrust into the global spotlight in 2012 when a video about his crimes went viral. Despite the attention and international efforts to capture him, he remains at large.

ICC cases against three other LRA leaders were terminated after confirmation that they had died before they could be arrested.

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