After two decades spent fighting in the bush, Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), faces trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on seventy counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In early 2015, Ongwen was surrendered to the ICC via another rebel army, the Séléka rebel coalition and US forces ‘hunting’ for LRA combatants in the Central African Republic. To date, Ongwen is the only alleged perpetrator from northern Uganda to find himself facing judges at the ICC. Ongwen’s trial is momentous for many reasons. It marks the first time that a former child soldier will be prosecuted at the ICC and the first time that an accused faces charges for the same crimes perpetrated against him. As such, the Ongwen trial raises myriad questions and poses difficult dilemmas regarding the prosecution of child soldiers.
To examine these issues, Justice in Conflict is honoured to host an online symposium on The Dominic Ongwen Trial and the Prosecution of Child Soldiers. Contributors will cover the following questions:
Who is Dominic Ongwen?
Should Ongwen’s past as a child soldier inform the proceedings against him at the ICC?
What does it mean to be a child soldier and when does a victim of international crimes emerge as perpetrator?
What does the Ongwen trial say about how we understand the war in northern Uganda and the wider region?
How have the people of northern Uganda reacted and responded to the prosecution of Ongwen?
What is an appropriate prosecution of a former child solider?
What is Ongwen’s defence and on what grounds can and should child soldiers like Ongwen be defended at international tribunals?
Over the next few days, JiC will publish articles from a series of scholars and commentators, including Adam Branch, Ledio Cakaj, Danya Chaikel, Mark Drumbl, Rosebell Kagumire, Barrie Sander, Alex Whiting, and myself.
Our goal is to create an open and honest dialogue within a forum that respects the opinions of all participants. And, as always, we welcome your thoughts and reflections!
Symposium contributions to date include:
Rupturing Official Histories in the Trial of Dominic Ongwen, by Adam Branch
The Ongwen Trial and the Struggle for Justice in Northern Uganda, by Rosebell Kagumire
What Counts against Ongwen – Effectiveness at the Price of Efficiency?, by Danya Chaikel
Shifting Narratives: Ongwen and Lubanga on the Effects of Child Soldiering, by Mark A. Drumbl