20 November 2012

Uganda Journalists Plead for Kwoyelo

A group of Ugandan journalists and human rights defenders recently presented a paper in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, challenging the continued detention of a former LRA commander, Thomas Kwoyelo.

The group of seven, along with 30 others from across the East African region, was attending a two-day training workshop on conflict reporting and international justice organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya) in collaboration with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and the Human Rights First Association of Rwanda (HRFAR).

Each of the teams from the five East African countries was asked to present a paper on the state and quality of media coverage on conflict, international justice and general press freedom in their countries. In their report, the Ugandans challenged government on Kwoyelo.

"Government has been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Kwoyelo does not get out of prison. As of now, Kwoyelo still remains incarcerated against his right to freedom as per the Constitutional court ruling," the paper reads in part.

Kwoyelo, who is said to have been abducted as a schoolboy and enlisted by the murderous Lord's Resistance Army, became the first suspect to be tried under the International Crimes Division (ICD), the domestic arm of the ICC established in 2008 to prosecute the perpetrators of the 20-year LRA insurgency.

Kwoyelo's lawyers challenged all the 53 cases levied against their client, saying he qualified for amnesty, just like the rest of his colleagues who surrendered to UPDF. Kwoyelo was reportedly captured but later applied for amnesty while in detention. The Constitutional court ruled in Kweyelo's favour and ordered that his case in the ICD be immediately closed.

A jubilant Kwoyelo was, however, later dramatically rearrested and is still in detention. The Ugandan delegation in Kigali described this as unfair.

"The state was placed in an awkward position of arguing that its very own Amnesty Act was unconstitutional, all in a bid to secure the trial of one man," the paper said, calling on government to review the case.

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