ICC convicts Ugandan rebel commander of war crimes

A former Ugandan rebel commander, Dominic Ongwen, has been convicted of widespread and brutal war crimes including murder, torture, rape and sexual enslavement.

Ongwen was abducted as a teenager by the Lord's Resistance Army, but rose up the ranks to command one of the group's four main operational units with up to 800 fighters.

That background highlights the complexities of the International Criminal Court case; because he was conscripted as a child, Ongwen was both an alleged perpetrator and a victim.

His lawyers had called for his acquittal arguing that his mental health and capacity to make independent decisions had been affected by his brutal life.

[ICC judge Bertram Schmitt saying:] "He was not a puppet on a string"

But on Thursday (February 4) the ICC found Ongwen guilty on 61 out of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out between 2002 and 2005.

Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said there was "overwhelming evidence" that Ongwen had been in full possession of his mental capabilities.

"There exists no ground excluding Dominic Ongwen's criminal responsibility. His guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt."

The Lord's Resistance Army, led by the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, terrorized Uganda for two decades.

The court found that Ongwen had ordered the killing and abduction of many civilians, personally taken sex slaves, and also forced children to fight in hostilities.

If they were unable to walk abductees were beaten to death. Babies were taken from their mothers and thrown away so they could carry looted goods to LRA's camps.

In a legal first, Ongwen was also convicted for the crime of forced pregnancy for atrocities committed against seven women.

He will be sentenced at a later date.