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Statement : |

Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, following the conviction of Mr Dominic Ongwen: “Today was an important milestone in the journey to bring justice to the people of Uganda.”

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Earlier today, the Judges of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court") found Dominic Ongwen guilty beyond reasonable doubt of an overwhelming majority of the charges brought by the Prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the time he was a senior leader of the so-called Lord's Resistance Army (''LRA'') in Uganda.

The trial aims to establish the truth through the trier of fact. This is equally important for the memory of those who perished from the horrors they endured as much as for those who survived them.

Today, the truth was established through this important judgment and justice was served. Through the Court's crucial work, today, an important message was sent globally that perpetrators of atrocities must be and will be held accountable.

As this case has clearly demonstrated, the brutal and terrifying campaigns of attacks on the civilian population, sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced pregnancy, murder, mutilation, torture, pillaging, abduction and other atrocities by the LRA with Mr Ongwen as one of its senior leaders, had horrific consequences for the civilian population in Uganda, including for women and children.

Today, my first thoughts are with the victims of the heinous crimes we witnessed in this case. The harrowing accounts of the victims were finally recognised through this verdict. I want to seize this important moment to express my solidarity with the victims and affected communities of Ongwen's crimes in Uganda, and profound gratitude to the victims and the 116 witnesses who collaborated with my Office in this case. I am grateful for their resilience, courage and commitment to the cause of justice. They are most deserving of our praise and admiration.

Today's guilty verdict of more than 60 counts included important convictions on the basis of sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children, including for the first time, the crime of forced marriage and forced pregnancy. This is yet another concrete expression of my Office's declared policy in action to address these serious underreported crimes.

Let me add here that Dominic Ongwen was, at one time, himself a victim of the LRA, abducted as a child and forced to become a child soldier. In time, however, he grew into one of the most senior military leaders, fervently committed to the LRA cause with infamous brutality. As an adult, he was personally responsible for encouraging and committing against others the very crimes that he himself suffered as a child. As proven at trial, he was also a direct perpetrator of terrible sexual violence, including against young girls, some of whom were forcibly "married" to him. We charged him for the horrible crimes he committed as an adult and today he was convicted for those crimes.

His trial is now over, but it is not the end of the judicial process. Mr Ongwen continues to benefit from all his due process rights. Both the Prosecution and the Defence have the option to appeal the verdict following a thorough review. There will be hearings on sentencing, which can also be subject to appeal, after which there will be hearings on reparations for the victims.

But let there be no mistake. Today was an important milestone in the journey to bring justice to the people of Uganda.

As a prosecuting office, we have worked tirelessly throughout the proceedings with an unyielding commitment to our mandate, and on the strength of the evidence we have scrupulously collected, to bring a measure of justice to the victims of Ongwen's crimes. Today is their day.

I am grateful to all who made today's outcome possible and proud of the role and contribution of my team at the Office.

It is my sincere hope that this trial and verdict will strengthen the collective resolve of the international community to end impunity for atrocity crimes, including for sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against and affecting children; crimes so prevalent in conflicts around the globe. There must be accountability for the perpetrators.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; and Venezuela (I and II) and has completed three other preliminary examinations concerning the situations in Palestine (pending a jurisdictional ruling) as well as Nigeria and Ukraine (pending requests for authorisation to proceed to investigation).

Source : Office of the Prosecutor