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Victim or Villain: Exploring the Possible Bases of a Defence in the Ongwen Case at the International Criminal Court

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The reality of child soldiers who join rebel forces once they reach adulthood presents complex legal questions in the face of contemporary international criminal law principles which, on the one hand, afford protection to all children, and on the other, unequivocally call for the prosecution and punishment of those who are guilty of committing serious crimes. Currently, the case of Dominic Ongwen before the ICC raises contentious issues, including whether or not international criminal law permits the consideration of factors, such as the impact of the experiences as a child soldier on future conduct, when he is prosecuted for allegedly committing crimes during adulthood. This article specifically examines whether Ongwen’s experiences as a child soldier could serve as a possible defence and/or as a mitigating factor.

Affiliations: 1: Project coordinator, doctoral student, South African-German Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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