KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda's government said Monday it wants to try the Lord's Resistance Army rebel commander who recently surrendered to U.S. forces for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Dominic Ongwen is in U.S. custody in Central African Republic after surrendering there on Jan. 6. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
"Some of our partners want him tried by the ICC but we want him tried in Uganda because we have the capacity to try him," said Uganda State Minister for Regional Cooperation Asuman Kiyingi.
Kiyingi said a decision would be made during consultations between the African Union, Uganda, U.S. and United Nations.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is working with the African Union to determine the next steps for Ongwen.
"We believe it's important he's held accountable and that we should work with the relevant institutions and states to determine the proper method," Harf told reporters.
Last week, Uganda's Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary said the ICC and Uganda government would discuss the ICC's "Complementarity Principle," which he said gives states first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes like those allegedly committed by Ongwen.
The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, began in Uganda in the 1980s as a tribal uprising. At the peak of its powers the group razed villages, raped women and amputated limbs. It is especially notorious for recruiting boys to fight and taking girls as sex slaves.
Ongwen, Kony and three others who have reportedly since died were charged by the ICC. The ICC warrant of arrest for Ongwen lists seven counts of alleged individual criminal responsibility including crimes against humanity, enslavement, murder and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury.
Cecilia Ladu, Ongwen's stepmother, said he was abducted by LRA in 1989 when he was 10 years old.
"His abduction was a crime. It should be Kony to go ICC, not Ongwen," Ladu said. The family said they want him tried in a traditional justice system called Mato-Oput, in which chiefs from his tribe would parade him before his victims and he would be made to drink bitter herbs, apologize and then be pardoned.
Kony became internationally well-known in 2012 when a U.S.-based advocacy group produced a widely viewed video. Despite an intensified hunt, Kony is believed to be constantly on the move across Central Africa.