Former LRA Senior Commander Thomas Kwoyelo to go on Trial, rules Uganda’s Highest Court

Kwoyelo in the dock

 

The Supreme Court, Uganda’s highest court has ordered for the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo.

The Attorney General had appealed to the Supreme Court against a Constitutional Court decision that Kwoyelo had a right to receive amnesty like other former LRA rebels under the Amnesty Act.

In 2011, the Constitutional court ordered the release of Thomas Kwoyelo one of the commanders of the LRA ending the country’s first war crimes trial.Thomas Kwoyelo had been charged with 53 counts of murder and other crimes.

Today (Wednesday), however, the Supreme Court unanimously passed judgment that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) was acting within his mandate to bring charges against Kwoyelo.

“It was proper for Kwoyelo to be tried before the International Crimes Division of the High Court.Kwoyelo should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He should be guaranteed a free and fair trial,” a panel of five judges led by the Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe ruled. Other Judges on the bench were Jotham Tumwesigye, Esther Kisakye, Galdino Okello, and Christine Kitumba.

The prosecution was represented by Patricia Mutesi while Kwoyelo was represented by John Francis Onyango.
At least 30,000 people died as the LRA rebel movement spread terror in northern Uganda for more than 20 years, displacing some two million people.

It is notorious for kidnapping children and forcing the boys to become fighters and using girls as sex slaves.
The group is listed by the US as a terrorist organization and now operates mainly in neighboring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Central Africa Republic

Kwoyelo was captured more than five years ago in DRC during a Ugandan military operation. Kwoyelo is a former LRA colonel and is believed to have been the fourth in command at the time.

He was charged with leading raids into villages in northern Uganda and DR Congo between 1992 and 2005, killing and abducting civilians – charges he denied.

Mr Kwoyelo was the first LRA commander to face trial in Uganda’s special war crimes court.

It was set up in 2008, following peace talks between the government and the LRA, which later collapsed.
The government assured the LRA that its fighters would be tried by Ugandan courts, rather than the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, is still at large.He and his close aides have been wanted by the ICC since 2005 for rape, murder, mutilation and forcibly recruiting child soldiers. He refused to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government in 2008 when it could not guarantee the withdrawal of the ICC arrest warrants.