23 November 2017

Uganda: Court Declines to Unconditionally Release LRA's Kwoyelo

Kampala — The International Crimes Division Court yesterday declined to unconditionally release Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni, former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander from Luzira prison.

Kwoyelo is facing 93 counts of alleged killing of civilians during the two-decade insurgency in northern region.

Kwoyelo through his lawyers Caleb Alaka and Evans Ocheinge, in order to block his trial had raised several objections accusing the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of charging him with offenses that he allegedly committed before the establishment of the international criminal laws and duplicating his offenses among others.

However justice Susan Okalany concurred with the submissions of DPP's attorney Richard Kamuli that even though Kwoyelo allegedly committed the offences between 1992-2005 before the establishment of the International crimes Division procedural rules, he must be answerable for them as the law provides for restorative charging in matters drawing their jurisprudences from an international setting .

"Kwoyelo is properly charged before the court for the offenses he committed and I hereby uphold the indictment in which he is charged with 93 counts that stem from the 20 year political insurgency in Northern Uganda," Justice Okalany ruled.

The charges include murder, hostage-taking contrary to article 3 (1) of the Common Geneva Conventions, kidnap with intent to murder, pillaging, aggravated robbery, cruel treatment, violation of personal dignity, torture and rape among others.

The judge also noted that she will proceed with the pre-trial session on December 4 in which she will decide on whether to confirm the said charges against Kwoyelo.

The DPP states that he will prove Kwoyelo underwent basic military training that saw him quickly rise through the LRA ranks to become a colonel, a rank he held at the time of arrest.

Kwoyelo was born in Acut Cama Ceri Village, Pabbo Sub-county in Kilak in the present Amuru District.

He is alleged to have committed the crimes between 1992 and 2005 when he was a military commander in the LRA and held several positions including commander of operations, director of military intelligence and being in charge of the LRA sick bays.

It's alleged that Kwoyelo while in Kilak carried out widespread killings of civilians, abductions and destruction of property.

"On the 5/9/1994, the accused (Kwoyelo) commanded an armed attack in Abera village, Parubanga Parish, Pabbo Sub-county in Kilak. Along with his forces he raided several civilian homes," the indictment reads in part.

"In the course of the raid, the accused (Kwoyelo) and his forces tortured, maimed and abducted a number of civilians including David Akena, Patrick Ochen, Menya Odong, John Ouma, Ojok Patrick, Okot Charles, Simon Ogena and others," the amended charge sheet further reads.

On the charge sheet, the DPP states that at the commencement of the trial, he will adduce evidence to prove the charges against Kwoyelo. He says the pieces of evidence include postmortem reports, police reports and other documents, photographs, correspondences, written statements of witnesses and newspaper extracts.

"The prosecution shall aver that there is sufficient evidence against the accused (Kwoyelo) and shall pray that the honorable court finds him guilty as charged," the DPP says in the indictment.

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