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Special Report:The Kwoyelo Trial Begins

 

GULU - July 11, 2011 marked a historical event in the Ugandan judiciary with the trial of a former LRA (Lords Resistance Army) commander, Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo who was captured by the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Forces) in 2009 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This makes Uganda, the first African Country to try nationally those alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, all crimes of international concern and the first country complementing the works of the International Criminal Court (ICC). A number of events took place before the actual presentation of the accused, Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo in court for plea taking at 12:00pm.

Judges meeting with Stakeholders

The meeting was presided over by the Principal Judge; Justice Yorokamu Bamwine. The Judges of the International Crimes Division; Justice Dan Akiiki Kiiza, Justice Elizabeth Ibanda Nahamya and Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny Dollo were also part of the panel.

Over 100 stakeholders filled the court room; these included journalists both national and international, international organizations, the United Nations, NGO’s, community based organizations, political leaders including members of parliament and district officials, members of the armed forces including police, prisons and the army.

The Principle Judge raised the following pertinent issues;

• Accurate reporting by journalists; he encouraged to report accurately, and advised them to always seek clarification from the relevant officers in case of doubt. Wrong reporting would send the wrong signals to the local communities, the victims as well as the international community.
• Justice was not a one off affair but includes the victims, the accused person the witnesses, the community as well as the prosecution and defense who were all entitled to justice.
• That at centre of the trial was a human being seeking justice; hence the need to accord the accused a fair trial.
• The Judiciary is not selective and does not look for cases to hear.
• The communities should have a feeling that justice has been done.

Stakeholders had a number of questions and concerns directed to the Judges some of which included;

1. The need for protection of victims and witnesses during the trial
2. The right of victims to participate during the trial process
3. The need for information dissemination to the public
4. The need for reparations after trial,
5. The need for counseling of witnesses during the trial,
6. Use of alternative justice processes like traditional justice.

All the stakeholders concerns were answered and were made to know that with the support of JLOS, a number of the above issues were being worked on like witness protection, alternative justice, information dissemination/outreach, counseling of witnesses and all those would be addressed according to the laws of Uganda.

Judges meeting with Defence Counsel, Prosecution and Lawyers

The Judges then proceeded to have a meeting with defence and prosecution as well as a few lawyers who would be participating in the trial.

The defence was team was composed of Mr. Caleb Alaka and Mr. Francis Onyango, the prosecution led by Ms. Joan Kagezi assisted by Mr. Lino Anguzu, Mr. William Byansi and Dr. Brian Kalenge as Senior Researcher/Advisor to the Prosecution.

The Head of the ICD; Justice Dan Akiiki Kiiza encouraged cooperation between the defence and prosecution. The defence and prosecution pledged to cooperate during the trial especially about issues of disclosure of evidence.

Plea Taking by Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo

The accused Mr. Thomas Kwoyelo was produced in Court at about 12:00pm. The prosecution applied for an amendment of the indictment under section 50 of the Trial on Indictments Act Cap 23 Laws of Uganda, to include 53 alternative charges under the Penal Code Act Cap 120. These alternative charges included murder, kidnap with intent to murder, attempted murder and Robbery.

All charges were read to the accused person. The accused person pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The accused then raised several preliminary objections arguing that he was entitled to amnesty under the Amnesty Act. The court then adjourned the case to 25th July 2011 when it will hear the preliminary objections and August 15th 2011, when it will commence hearing of the case.

 

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in Gulu | Published: July 13, 2011