how the case of a former child soldier exposed weaknesses in international criminal law

Guilt and innocence are rarely clear-cut, even in the most heinous of crimes. The recent appeal of Dominic Ongwen, former commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), shines a light on the complexity of defence in international criminal law.

In December, the International Criminal Court (ICC) refused Ongwen’s appeal, cementing his conviction and 25-year prison sentence for numerous charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ongwen was convicted of some of the most egregious crimes in international law: rape, sexual slavery, torture, recruitment of child soldiers, and various crimes against people living in camps for those internally displaced.

During his trial, Ongwen admitted that he had carried out the acts, but did not admit guilt. Instead, he relied upon two defences to argue for exoneration: mental disease and duress. Ongwen was abducted at around nine years old and recruited as a child soldier, before rising through the ranks of

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