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Former LRA General Sentenced by ICC Judges

The international criminal court has sentenced a former militia leader and child soldier from Uganda to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a landmark judgment. The presiding judge, Bertram Schmitt, said the panel of judges had considered sentencing Dominic Ongwen to life imprisonment, the court’s harshest punishment, but had sided against it due to the defendant’s own personal suffering. The 41-year-old was “a perpetrator who wilfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims, however, also a perpetrator who himself has previously endured extreme suffering at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader”, Schmitt said on Thursday as he announced the sentence. The court rejected defence arguments that because Ongwen was abducted by the LRA at the age of 10 he had committed any crimes under duress. Ongwen was convicted in February on charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, abduction and torture committed as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a violent cult which waged a bloody campaign in Uganda and neighbouring countries from the mid-1980s until only a few years ago. The case is one of the most momentous in the ICC’s 18-year history, but has raised difficult questions of responsibility and blame.