The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday sentenced former Ugandan ex-Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen to 25 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Court had found the 45-year-old former child soldier guilty of 61 out of 70 counts, including murders, rapes and sexual enslavement.
However, ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, does not provide for a death penalty; the sentence may be up to 30 years of imprisonment (and under exceptional circumstances life imprisonment) and/or a fi
In a majority decision, Trial Chamber IX Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt and Judge Péter Kovács agreed to grant Ongwen 25 years sentence. However, dissenting Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan proposed a joint sentence of 30 years.
ICC Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said judges had to weigh Ongwen’s brutality with his own tortured past as a schoolboy abducted by the LRA when deciding on a sentence.
“The chamber is confronted in the present case with a unique situation. It is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims,” Schmitt said.
“However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering himself at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader.”
Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan stated that a higher sentence should be imposed. He added that Ongwen ’s background should not overshadow the victims’ sufferings.
“Setting the joint sentence at 25 years, rather than at the statutory maximum of 30 years, would, in my view, fail to give due weight to the victims’ suffering, which, in the context of mass atrocity crimes, is certainly no less than if crimes such as murder, rape, torture are committed as ‘ordinary’ crimes. The scale and cruelty with which these crimes were committed in this case are not outweighed by the sad twist of fate of Dominic Ongwen’s abduction and conscription as a child soldier,” Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan said in his separate five-page opinion.
Dominic Ongwen is the fifth suspect to be convicted for atrocities at the ICC, a court of last resort established in 2002.
Ongwen will be 65 by the time he finishes serving his sentence if it is upheld on appeal.