Free or not? This is the question everyone at the High court in Gulu today was left battling to answer following a ruling by the International Crimes Division of the High Court stopping the trial of former LRA rebel commander, Thomas Kwoyelo.
The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Gulu has stopped the trial of former LRA rebel commander, Thomas Kwoyelo.
Justices Dan Akiiki Kiiza, Elisabeth Ibanda Nahamya and Alphonse Owiny Dollo Chigamoi ruled on Friday morning that the court had ceased the prosecution of the war crimes suspect. The court also directed the amnesty commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions to comply with the recent constitutional court ruling that said the suspect should be granted amnesty and set free.
Despite the ruling, several people at the court including Kwoyelo’s mother and lawyer were left looking on in confusion and not sure whether to celebrate or not.
Francis Onyango, the lawyer representing Kwoyelo told URN outside the court after the ruling that he had no reason to celebrate or comment yet saying ‘the matter is still contentious’.
//Cue in: “Yah, we are not commenting…”
Cue out: “…no explanation.”//
Many people who gathered outside the court hoping to see the former rebel commander walking free from the court into civilian life he abandoned many years ago, were disappointed after prison guards whisked him away in a handcuff.
Before he was led off however, a prison official told Rosolina Oyet, Kwoyelo’s mother that his son was going to be led back to prison from where his amnesty certificate would be processed. Oyet like everybody else at the court looked on in confusion as Kwoyelo, dressed in a light green shirt and light blue trousers, was led to a waiting car and driven away.
Moses Drako, the spokesperson of the Amnesty Commission could not pick his phone when URN called to establish whether and when Kwoyelo would be granted amnesty.
Friday’s ruling brings an end to years of a prosecution process that begun before the Gulu chief magistrate court in 2009 shortly after Kwoyelo was captured by the UPDF during a gun battle in DR Congo.
Charged with over fifty counts of war crimes, Kwoyelo is the first of the LRA rebel commanders to be arraigned in court for crimes he allegedly committed during the two decade insurgency in northern Uganda. His trial hit a snag after his lawyers petitioned the constitutional court arguing that unlike other former rebels who have since resumed civilian life, he was denied amnesty despite denouncing rebellion and applying for pardon.
The Amnesty Act 2000 provides that no one previously involved in armed rebellion against government should be punished after denouncing rebellion. If granted amnesty, Kwoyelo could join other rebel commanders like Kenneth Banya and Sam Kolo who received amnesty after they denounced rebellion.
trial of thomas kwoyelo
international crimes division of the high court
high court ruling
lra rebel commander
justice dan akiiki kiiza
justice elisabeth nahamya ibanda
justice alphonse owiny dollo chigamoi