Justice Update –  Record Reparations for Ugandan Victims

Ugandan’s in Gulu listen live to ICC judges as they hand down an order on reparations to victims of Dominic Ongwen (X-@IntlCrimCourt)

Today we look at the extraordinary reparations awarded by the International Criminal Court to victims of the Ugandan militia commander Dominic Ongwen.

Back in February almost 50,000 victims were awarded over €52 million in compensation. It’s a record reparations order.

Ongwen was convicted of 61 offenses, including murders, rapes, forced marriages and recruiting child soldiers. He was convicted back in 2021, and is currently serving a joint sentence of 25 years of imprisonment in Norway.

A former child-solider himself, Ongwen rose through the ranks of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, to become one of its top commanders. In the early 2000s he was responsible for attacks on refugee camps in northern Uganda.

During his trial, horrifying details of the LRA’s atrocious were laid bare. The mass murder of people in refugee camps. The forced pregnancies of women and girls who were abducted and raped, and forced to be so-called bush wives. As well as the widespread abduction of children to become child soldiers.

Although Ongwen is considered liable for the reparations, he will not have to pay, as the court has ruling him indigent. The money will instead come from the Trust Fund for Victims, established by the court’s member states.

The LRA was led by the notorious warlord Joseph Kony, and the militia group terrorized northern Uganda for almost 20 years. Kony remains one of the ICC’s most wanted fugitives, but the court will still begin his pre-trial hearings in October despite his absence.

So, how and when will victims of Ongwen receive their compensation? How much money is in the Trust Fund for Victims? And what about the thousands of other victims in northern Uganda who weren’t included in this case? Will they be given reparations? We discuss the complex and difficult realties of finding justice with two experts on the ground.

Sarah Kasande is the Head of Office at the International Centre for Transitional Justice, based in Kampala. And Pamela Angwech is the Executive Director of Gulu Women, Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G), a women led grassroots human rights organisation in Northern Uganda.

This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland