ICC: Ugandan Warlord Must Pay$56 Million in Reparations

Published: 04 March 2024

International Criminal Court building 2019 in The Hague 01 cropped

The ICC in The Hague deemed Dominic Ongwen’s nearly 50,000 victims are entitled to $56 Million in reparations for what they endured under his rule as a Lord's Resistance Army commander. (Photo: OSeveno, Wikimedia, License)

By Henry Pope

The International Criminal Court Thursday deemed a convicted Ugandan warlord liable for more than €52 million (US$56 million) in reparations to his nearly 50,000 victims, who include child soldiers and women subjected to sexual assault.

Dominic Ongwen, 44, is a former leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Christian extremist organization founded in 1987 that operates across Africa. He was convicted in 2021 for more than 60 crimes against humanity carried out by soldiers under his command between 2002 and 2005.

These crimes include multiple murders, rapes, forced marriages, use of child soldiers, and other abuses against the Ugandan people.

During his conviction hearing, the presiding judge also highlighted how he used his crusade against the Uganda government as a means to kidnap several women into his personal household, who were then enslaved, tortured, and forcibly impregnated.

Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment; the ICC noted that its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, does not permit imposing the death penalty on those convicted in its courts.

While the maximum allowable sentence is 30 years, the chamber took into consideration that Ongwen himself was abducted by the LRA at a very young age, which played a considerable role in the man he grew up to be.

Still, the court noted the sufferings the Ugandan people endured under his oppressive rule. He served as an LRA commander as women were raped in front of their husbands, babies were torn from their mothers’ arms to be abandoned in the bush, and masses of young children suffered conscription, torture, sexual assault, and murder, the judges said.

Ongwen appealed his sentence shortly after his conviction, but it was ultimately upheld by the ICC.

“Tens of thousands of individuals suffered tremendous harm due to the unimaginable atrocities committed” by LRA rebel fighters led by Ongwen, said Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt.

The ICC noted that all eligible victims are entitled to “a symbolic award” of €750 ($812). As Ongwen is essentially indigent, the chamber “encouraged the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) to complement the reparation awards, to the extent possible, and engage in additional fundraising efforts to the extent necessary to complement the totality of the award.”