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Ugandan Rebel Leader Dominic Ongwen Appears At The Hague

Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has appeared in the dock at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face war crimes charges.

Mr Ongwen, a feared commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is the first member of the LRA to appear before the court.

During the pre-trial hearing he was asked to confirm his identity.

He faces charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder and enslavement.

The LRA is accused of seizing children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

The prosecution is not expected to formally put its case for some time.

Mr Ongwen wore a blue suit, white shirt and chequered tie in court. He identified himself as born in Gulu in northern Uganda in 1975.

“I was abducted in 1988 and I was taken to the bush when I was 14 years old,” he said in Acholi, the language widely spoken in northern Uganda. “Prior to my arrival at court I was a soldier in the LRA.”

Mr Ongwen was arrested after giving himself up in the Central African Republic last month. Last week he was delivered to the ICC.

His transfer “brings us one step closer to ending the LRA’s reign of terror”, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement last week.

Uganda agreed to an ICC trial for Mr Ongwen despite being a fierce critic of The Hague-based court.

US and African forces had been searching for the defendant since 2011.

He is said to be the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony, who is still on the run.

Who Is Dominic Ongwen?

Said to have been abducted by LRA, aged 10, as he walked to school in northern Uganda

Rose to become a top commander

Accused of crimes against humanity, including enslavement

ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005

Rumoured to have been killed in the same year

US offered $5m (£3.3m) reward for information leading to his arrest in 2013

The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both welcomed Mr Ongwen’s transfer to the ICC.

His extradition came nearly 10 years after he and four other LRA top commanders were charged.

Two have since died, leaving Mr Kony and Okot Odhiambo still at large.

Mr Ongwen is accused of committing atrocities against civilians in Uganda and in parts of Central African Republic, South Sudan and DR Congo.

The LRA rebellion began more than two decades ago in northern Uganda and its estimated 200-500 fighters – many of them child soldiers – have since terrorised large swathes of central Africa.