Ugandan rebel leader accused of ordering cannibalism

Dominic Ongwen is alleged to have slaughtered civilians and turned children into sex slaves

Ugandan rebel leader accused of ordering cannibalism

Dominic Ongwen, right, a Ugandan commander in warlord Joseph Kony's feared militia, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (Image: AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)

A former Ugandan rebel leader has been accused of ordering cannibalism and using rape to coerce children into becoming soldiers.

Dominic Ongwen, himself a former child soldier, is alleged to have slaughtered civilians and turned children into sex slaves while he commanded the Sinai Brigade of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The 40-year-old faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, said to have been committed in northern Uganda as part of his rebel campaign against the government.

Ongwen was said to have been abducted by the LRA when he was 10 years old, rising through the ranks of the movement while it was under the control of fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.

Prosecutor Ben Gumpert told judges Kony found children easiest to shape by a process of brutalisation into the fighters he needed. Ongwen, by turns generous and cruel, played a role in this, it is claimed.

"Witnesses tell of how he instructed his personal escorts to administer dreadful beatings and ... even, on at least one occasion to kill, cook and eat civilians who had been abducted in attacks," Mr Gumpert said.

Mr Gumpert alleges Ongwen led attacks on four camps into which civilians had been driven by the LRA's rebel campaign.

Many were killed and others were kidnapped and forced to carry away the assets, it is claimed.Nursing mothers who could not keep up had their babies torn from them and left behind in the bush, said Mr Gumpert.

Nursing mothers who could not keep up had their babies torn from them and left behind in the bush, said Mr Gumpert.

A video taken by Ugandan authorities after the attack showed thatched huts burned to the ground and bodies in shallow graves.During the hearing, Ongwen appeared uncomfortable and rose only to say he did not need to read the list of charges he faces, saying: "It is all going to be a waste of time."

During the hearing, Ongwen appeared uncomfortable and rose only to say he did not need to read the list of charges he faces, saying: "It is all going to be a waste of time."He denies the charges.

He denies the charges.Mr Gumpert's team must convince judges that their case which has been hastily reinvestigated since Ongwen's surrender last January after years on the run, is strong enough to merit a trial.

Mr Gumpert's team must convince judges that their case which has been hastily reinvestigated since Ongwen's surrender last January after years on the run, is strong enough to merit a trial.

Prosecutors say Ongwen's own traumatic childhood could at most be a mitigating circumstance at sentencing."Child abusers are overwhelmingly likely to have been abused themselves as children," he said.

"Child abusers are overwhelmingly likely to have been abused themselves as children," he said.

Ongwen's lawyers will argue next week for the charges to be dropped.