Monday, 29 June 2015 00:00

Supreme Court Okays the Prosecution of THOMAS KWOYELO for war crimes

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Preparations to resume the first trial of an ex rebel commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for serious crimes committed in a war situation are underway following the long awaited decision of the Supreme Court in Constitutional Appeal No.1 of 2012, Attorney General V Thomas Kwoyelo delivered on 8th April 2015. It is a historical trial which presents opportunities and challenges for the Ugandan criminal justice system and lessons for the rest of the international community in the realities of prosecuting international crimes at a national or domestic level.  

The constitutional court had upheld Kwoyelo’s objections to his trial before the International crimes Division of the High Court (ICD) that his trial was unconstitutional because he was entitled to amnesty like other rebel commanders who had been earlier granted the same. The constitutional court agreed with him that his trial was unconstitutional and ordered the ICD to stop prosecuting him immediately. The Attorney General appealed to the Supreme Court which has now given the ICD the go ahead to resume trial after holding, among other things that Uganda is bound by her international obligations not to subject international crimes to amnesty. 

Thomas Kwoyelo is charged with 12 counts of offences under the Geneva Act and 53 alternative counts under various sections of the Penal Code Act. The gist of the prosecution case against him is that he was one of the middle level commanders in the LRA who rose through the ranks up to that of Colonel by the time he was captured by the UPDF in 2008. During that time several atrocities were committed against the people of Northern Uganda especially among the Acholi in the present day Gulu and Amuru Districts and the DPPs office contends that he planned, commanded and or executed the attacks.   

In July 2011, he was produced before the ICD sitting in Gulu for his trial to start. The indictment of 12 counts under the Geneva conventions Act of Uganda and 53 alternative counts under the Ugandan Penal Code Act were read to him in English with the help of an interpreter. 

The offences under the Geneva conventions Act include wilful killing, extensive destruction of property and abduction while the alternative counts include murder, kidnap and robbery. 

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, before an overflowing court room. 

His appearance attracted a lot of attention, locally and internationally.

The Supreme Court’s resolution of the legal hurdle of the amnesty law has opened the way for the continuation of this case. 




Read 7113 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 July 2015 05:25
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