The ICC trial set for December 6th against LRA commander Dominic Ongwen will include crimes of sexual violence, among them rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage. The focus on these types of gender-based crimes represents another achievement in the fight against impunity, which follows the March conviction of a former vice-president and rebel leader from the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba, for his role in perpetrating rape as a weapon of war.

While the trial against Bemba focused on the concept of command responsibility, Ongwen’s case will include both indirect and direct responsibility. In addition to ordering the sexual abuse of women and girls, for example by “awarding” them as prizes to soldiers, Ongwen perpetrated the crimes himself, often against the women he married by force.

Illustration of progress

In some parts of Uganda, it is believed that men should not be prosecuted for sexual offences, a notion that is exacerbated by the patriarchal values that dominate, particularly in rural communities. These cultural norms, among other factors, also lead to the silence and under-reporting by victims. However, the fact that sexual based crimes were not included in the 2005 arrest warrant but now have taken precedence, illustrates the progress that can and has been made.


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