Dominic Ongwen was around ten years old when he was abducted on his way to school by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He was trained as a ‘child soldier’ to fight against the Government of Uganda and forced to kill, mutilate, loot from and rape civilians. He became so efficient and fearlessly loyal to his superiors that he was eventually ‘promoted’ to the ‘inner circle’ of the LRA. In October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Ongwen for crimes against humanity, including massacres and the abduction and enslavement of children. As such, Ongwen is the first known person to be charged with the same war crimes of which he is also victim.
Ongwen’s case raises vexing justice questions. How should individual responsibility be addressed in the context of collective victimization? What agency is available to individuals who are raised within a setting of extreme brutality? How can justice be achieved for Ongwen and for the victims of the crimes he committed?
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