Washington and Lee law professor Mark Drumbl has a new post at Justice in Conflict on the trial of Dominic Ongwen, child soldier in Uganda’s LRA. His post, titled “Shifting Narratives: Ongwen and Lubanga on the Effect of Child Soldiering,” examines the prosecution of Ongwen for various war crimes. Ongwen’s defense, ultimately unsuccessful, centered on the fact that he was abducted into the LRA as a child and should be excused because of the trauma he suffered at the hands of the LRA. From Prof. Drumbl’s post:
Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether the defense arguments have merit. The point of my commentary is not to revisit these arguments. Grounds for excluding responsibility may, moreover, be reassessed at trial where the burden on the prosecutor is higher than at the confirmation of charges stage. Nor is the point of my commentary to suggest how (and where) a Trial Chamber might hypothetically assess these arguments.
Instead, my point is to emphasize that international criminal law should proceed in consistent and predictable ways. Here, PTC II slipped. Its understanding of the agency of actual and former child soldiers in Ongwen departs from the understanding previously deployed by the Lubanga Trial and Appeals Chambers, in particular in the sentencing judgments.