Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen was the "tip of the spear" of the group which sowed terror in northern Uganda, prosecutors told the International Criminal Court Thursday unveiling 70 war crimes charges against him.
"For well over a decade until his arrest in January 2015, Dominic Ongwen was one of the most senior commanders in the LRA," Prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert told the Hague-based court.
The notorious Ongwen "was the tip of the spear," Gumpert said of the brutal rebel movement led by fugitive chief Joseph Kony, who has evaded a years-long international manhunt.
Gruesome images of bodies of LRA victims were shown on the opening day of a hearing during which prosecutors are seeking to convince ICC judges that the evidence is solid enough to put him in the dock.
The judges will then have to determine whether Ongwen should stand trial.
Ten of the charges against Ongwen were kept secret for "security reasons".
Prosecutors allege that from 2002 to 2005, Ongwen "bears significant responsibility" for "terrifying attacks" in northern Uganda when civilians were treated by the rebel group as "the enemy".
"This was not just a civil war between people in uniform," Gumpert said, "the LRA attacked ordinary Ugandan citizens who wanted no more than to live their lives."
Dressed in a grey suit, lilac shirt and grey tie, Ongwen, who turned himself in to US special forces in January 2015, listened intently to the prosecutor.
But in a brief address to the court, he insisted that reading out the charges was "a waste of time".
Gumpert showed a video of bodies in a grave, saying the court would also see other evidence of the "ferocity" of the attacks by the LRA.
Ongwen, who is about 40 years old, ordered attacks and killings of civilians and the abduction and enslavement of children to be rebel soldiers, Gumpert said.
Witnesses said Ongwen told his troops "at least on one occasion to kill, cook and eat civilians," Gumpert added.