A Ugandan warlord must be acquitted of war crimes because he himself was a brutalised former child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army, defence lawyers told the International Criminal Court on Tuesday.
Dominic Ongwen, 43, faces 70 charges arising from a reign of terror in northern Uganda in the early 2000s as part of the sinister rebel LRA, led by its fugitive chief Joseph Kony.
But his attorneys told the court in The Hague that Ongwen could not be held responsible as he was kidnapped by the LRA at the age of nine and “spent nearly 27 years in the grip of the LRA” as a “slave”.
“Dominic Ongwen was a victim rather than a perpetrator. Once a victim, always a victim,” his lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo told the court.
“Children abducted by the LRA, the accused included, are used in the war in northern Uganda, and grew up in one of the most brutal environments ever before known to humanity,” he added.
“The accused did not possess a mind of his own, save for the survival instinct he developed to navigate the harsh conditions of the bush.”