ICC confirms upholds 25-year sentence for Ugandan LRA commander

THE HAGUE, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court on Thursday confirmed the convictions of Dominic Ongwen, a former Ugandan child soldier who rose to be a commander in the notorious Lord's Resistance Army, and upheld his 25-year sentence for rape, murder and child abduction.

"The appeals chamber rejects all the defence grounds of appeal and unanimously confirms the convictions," presiding judges Luz del Carmen Ibanez Carranza said.

Later the judges also rejected all the grounds of appeal related to the sentencing.

Led by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorized Ugandans for nearly 20 years as it fought the government of President Yoweri Museveni from bases in northern Uganda and neighbouring countries.

The militia has been largely wiped out.

Ongwen, now in his mid-forties, was abducted at 9 years old and forced into a life of violence after the group killed his parents.

The defence had argued that his horrific experiences in the LRA meant he could not be held responsible for his later actions.

Appeals judges, however, dismissed this and confirmed the lower court's findings that Ongwen was not under duress and acted independently when he had committed the crimes for which he was charged.

Ongwen is the only LRA suspect to appear before the ICC so far. Kony is still at large despite being the subject of an arrest warrant from the court since 2005.

In a hearing earlier this year Ongwen told judges he felt as though he was being blamed for all of Kony's crimes.

The ICC prosecutor recently said he would seek to start proceedings against Kony and intensify efforts to bring him to trial.

Prosecutors and lawyers for the more than 4,000 victims participating in the case have asked judges to uphold the conviction and sentence.

The ICC was established in 2002 to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Mark Porter

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