The Dilemma of Dominic Ongwen: The Socialisation, Reintegration, and Criminal Culpability of Former Child Soldiers
Dominic Ongwen is a former child soldier with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, who is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ongwen was abducted when he was around ten years old, and he rose steadily through the ranks of the LRA, one of the most brutal armed groups in the world. Although he was certainly a victim when he was first abducted as a child, he also showed personal initiative and went on to commit atrocities against civilians in northern Uganda.
The case of Ongwen poses vital questions for transitional justice, particularly, how can courts, which deal largely in binary categories of guilt and innocence, address situations where perpetrators are also victims?
This lecture will consider this question by drawing from interviews from those who were inside the LRA, to discuss the socialization of child soldiers – from violent initiation rituals to public punishments. It will also examine the impact of violence on perpetrators in the short and long-term: how does participation in violence alter perpetrator memory and self-identity?
This lecture is the last lecture Kjell Anderson will give for the NIOD institute. Kjell was a researcher at NIOD, the coordinator of the MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Amsterdam, as well as a lecturer at Leiden University College. He is a member of the network and his recent research focuses on perpetrators of international crimes, the criminology of genocide, and transitional justice. He is currently researching the Ongwen trial at the ICC, transitional justice and collective memory in Bangladesh, genocidal intent, and mass atrocities in Iraq.