PRETORIA, South Africa

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday convicted Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier-turned rebel commander, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ongwen, 45, commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which wreaked havoc in northern Uganda during the 1990s and early 2000s, was found guilty on 61 counts, including murder, rape, and torture, committed by his militia group.

Judge Bertram Schmitt said he had found Ongwen guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, saying Ongwen was not a puppet tied to a tree when he commanded the LRA.

Ongwen, the first LRA member to appear before the Netherlands-based court, said in one of his earlier trials that he was abducted in 1988 on his way to school when he was 14 years old.

He was a feared and notorious commander of the LRA, led by Joseph Kony. The outfit that fought for many years in northern Uganda in an attempt to overthrow the Ugandan government claimed to be operating on the biblical Ten Commandments.

Ongwen said he was indoctrinated and forced to commit unspeakable atrocities at 14 years of age, being told that he was doing God’s work, cleansing his country, and defending his family and neighbors from southern aggressors.

Out of the four senior LRA leaders indicted by the ICC more than a decade ago, including Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, only Kony and Ongwen are still alive. But, unconfirmed reports claim Kony might have died in the Central African Republic.

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