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Ongwen

Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has appeared in the dock at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face war crimes charges. Mr Ongwen, a feared commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), is the first member of the LRA to appear before the court. During the pre-trial hearing he was asked to confirm his identity.

 

He faces a total of seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder and enslavement. The charges all relate to an attack on a camp for internally displaced people in Uganda in 2004. Mr Ongwen was not required to enter a plea on Monday. Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova set the date for his next appearance as 24 August, when hearings will determine if he should face trial. The LRA is accused of seizing children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

 

Mr Ongwen wore a blue suit, white shirt and chequered tie in court. He identified himself as born in Gulu in northern Uganda in 1975. "I was abducted in 1988 and I was taken to the bush when I was 14 years old," he said in Acholi, the language widely spoken in northern Uganda. "Prior to my arrival at court I was a soldier in the LRA."

Mr Ongwen - who now has short hair rather than his trademark dreadlocks - was arrested after giving himself up in the Central African Republic last month. Last week he was delivered to the ICC. His transfer "brings us one step closer to ending the LRA's reign of terror", ICC chief prosecutor Fatou. Uganda agreed to an ICC trial for Mr Ongwen despite being a fierce critic of The Hague-based court. US and African forces had been searching for the defendant since 2011. He is said to be the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony, who is still on the run.

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