World Bulletin / News Desk
A former Ugandan rebel commander has pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges before judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
The former Lords Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the northern part of the East African country.
“In the name of God, I deny all these charges in respect to the war in northern Uganda,” he said on his first day of trial Tuesday when asked what he pled.
Ongwen, who surrendered in January 2015, argued that he was a victim of the LRA atrocities and that it was not him who committed the heinous crimes.
He was dressed in a gray suit, a pink shirt and a blue tie. In Uganda, victims of the LRA were glued to live broadcasts of the trial, set up by the ICC.
Ongwen was captured by the LRA when he was 10 years old and later rose through the ranks turning into a fierce commander who allegedly killed mercilessly.
He is one of five commanders of the Lords Resistance Army rebels who were indicted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Speaking to journalists in the Ugandan capital Kampala, ICC registrar Herman Von Hebel described Ongwen’s trial as “a difficult situation".
He added: “It’s about accountability. Was Ongwen responsible for the atrocities? What the lawyers will present is what the judges will use to base to get the verdict.”
The LRA has been blamed for the killing of tens of thousands of people and making over 2 million others homeless and living in squalid internally displaced person’s camps.
Until 2006 when the war ended in Uganda, the LRA rebel group was accused of willful killings, murder of innocent civilians, sexual enslavement, rape, abductions, mutilations, maiming and of burning villages.
According to the ICC registrar, over 4,000 victims of the fighting between the LRA and government troops in the two-decade insurgency will participate in the trial.
The LRA, notoriously led by Joseph Kony, is still active in the Central African Republic.
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