Summary of Amicus Briefs by Prof. Erin Baines in the Case of The Prosecutor vs Dominic Ongwen

In December 2021, Dr. Erin Baines, Associate Professor and Ivan Head South North Chair at the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, contributed to two Amicus Briefs in the case of The Prosecutor vs Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Below is a summary of the two amicus briefs by Dr. Baines. This work followed decades of her extensive research and collaboration in northern Uganda.

Dominic OngwenDrawing and building on international legal interpretations, the first brief on forced marriage – conducted with a team of feminist legal scholars – outlined the ways the act falls under the category of ‘other inhumane acts’ as a crime against humanity. Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was found guilty of the charges of abduction, forced marriage and forced pregnancy of girls during the war in northern Uganda, one of more than 70 charges against Ongwen.

The verdict was important for many of his victims and feminist efforts globally to recognize the crime, and for Dr. Baines, a milestone in her advocacy and research with survivors in northern Uganda, and her participation in an international partnership on Conjugal Slavery in Wartime, led by Dr. Annie Bunting at York University.

The Ongwen verdict, however, is not without controversy. Ongwen was abducted at the age of ten and forced to fight and commit atrocities against civilians, a common tactic used by armed groups to socialize children into their ranks. As a child soldier, Ongwen was the first person to be indicted for the same crimes to which he was a victim. Baines researched and wrote about the complexities and dilemmas for justice of the case in 2009.

With Dr. Kamari Clarke and Dr. Mark Drumbl, she filed a second Amicus Brief that argues his victim status as a child soldier should be understood as a continuous crime resulting in traumatic disorders and thus should mitigate his sentence.

Oral hearings are scheduled at the ICC in February 2022.