ICC splits Uganda LRA war crimes trial

The International Criminal Court on Friday separated the war crimes trial of notorious former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Daniel Ongwen from those of his fellow accused because they have not yet been caught.

ICC pre-trial judge Ekaterina Trendafilova “severed proceedings against Dominic Ongwen” in the case that also included LRA leader Joseph Kony, the Hague-based ICC said in a statement.

“As the three other suspects in the case have not appeared or have not been apprehended yet,” the case was split “so as not to delay the pre-trial proceedings against Mr Ongwen,” it said.

Ongwen, a child-soldier-turned-warlord in Uganda’s brutal LRA rebel army appeared before the ICC for the first time 10 days ago, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The LRA is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda that started in 1987.

His commander Kony, as well as two other senior commanders, Vincent Otti and Okot Odhiambo, are still being wanted by the court for similar crimes.

Unconfirmed reports in the past have stated that both Otti and Odhiambo may be dead.

Last week Kampala said it was conducting DNA tests to determine whether a body recently discovered in a grave was that of Odhiambo.

Odhiambo is widely suspected to have directed the killing of some 300 civilians during a February 2004 attack on the Barlonyo internally displaced persons camp in northern Uganda, one of the single largest massacres in the LRA’s brutal history.

Ongwen was transferred to the ICC in January following his surprise surrender to US soldiers who have been helping Uganda to track down the rebels.

So far there has been no sign of Kony, the LRA’s most wanted fugitive.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

But over the years the LRA has moved across the porous borders of the region: it shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern CAR in March 2008.

Combining religious mysticism with an astute guerrilla mind and bloodthirsty ruthlessness, Kony has turned scores of young girls into his personal sex-slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible’s Ten Commandments.