Ugandan LRA fighter denies atrocity charges, says he was victim

A Ugandan man accused of being a senior commander in the infamous Lord's Resistance Army pleaded not guilty to murder, rape and other charges on Tuesday, telling the International Criminal Court he had been a victim of the guerrilla group.
Dominic Ongwen, who says he was abducted as a teenager and pressed into service in the late 1980s, faces 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to attacks on refugee camps in northern Uganda.
"In the name of God, I deny all the charges in respect to the war in northern Uganda," he told the first trial at the Hague-based tribunal linked to LRA atrocities.
"It was the LRA who abducted and killed people in northern Uganda, and I am one of the people against whom the LRA committed atrocities," he said in his native Acholi, speaking through a translator.
Dressed in a sober suit, Ongwen appeared unsure of his surroundings. Asked to stand by judges, he rose only after the guards surrounding him interpreted the order with hand gestures.
Judges rejected a last-minute request by defence lawyers to postpone the hearing for a psychological evaluation to establish whether Ongwen was mentally fit for trial.
He was indicted by the global court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005 alongside LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is still at large, and other men described as senior commanders.
The LRA declared war against the government of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and earned a reputation for massacres, mutilation of civilians and mass abduction of children to serve as fighters and sex slaves from the late 1980s onwards.
Ongwen gave himself up last year after a decade on the run, saying he feared for his life after falling out with Kony.
Prosecutors accuse him of being the commander of the LRA's Sinia Brigade and being responsible for a series of attacks on civilians from October 2003 to June 2004.
Charges include murder, attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, torture, enslavement, conscription of child soldiers, pillaging and persecution.
After a military crackdown by Kampala, the LRA left Uganda about a decade ago and has roamed across lawless parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic since then, eluding international efforts to defeat it.

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