BANGUI/KAMPALA (Reuters) - A senior commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been handed over to International Criminal Court representatives in Central African Republic and will be transferred to the Hague-based tribunal in days, officials said on Saturday.
Dominic Ongwen -- a one-time child soldier who rose through the ranks of the Ugandan rebel group -- was among five senior LRA commanders indicted by the global court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005.
The LRA has a reputation for massacres and mutilation of civilians, and has been accused of abducting children to serve as fighters and sex slaves during nearly three decades of violence.
Ongwen defected from the LRA in late December and handed himself over to the Seleka rebels that control swathes of north and eastern Central African Republic. Seleka then transferred him to U.S. forces that support a regional anti-LRA task force.
His surrender was hailed as a major success in the campaign against the rebel group that first rose up against Uganda in the late 1980s.
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.
U.S. forces handed Ongwen to Uganda troops forming part of the regional task force on Wednesday, who in turn passed him to authorities in Central African Republic on Friday.
Central African Republic’s public prosecutor Ghislain Grezengue said Ongwen was immediately transferred to the capital Bangui and handed over to ICC representatives.
“Dominic Ongwen is in the ICC’s custody,” the court’s spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said in a text message on Saturday. “He will arrive to The Hague in the next days.”
Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette in Bangui, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam and Aaron Masho in Addis Ababa; Writing by Edmund Blair and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Andrew Heavens