DPP Suggests 113 Witnesses to Pin LRA's Thomas Kwoyelo Top story

1920 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Charles Kamuli, a representative of the DPP informed court president over by justice Lydia Mugambe that they intend to adduce 113 witnesses to prove their case against Kwoyelo. Kamuli further told court that witnesses will be protected under the available witness protection mechanisms. This also includes the use of pseudonyms, masking witnesses and testifying in judges chambers where needed.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions has lined up 113 witnesses to pin the former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army- LRA Thomas Kwoyelo ahead of his trial before Gulu High Court.

Kwoyelo faces 12 charges relating to crimes committed during a war that ravaged northern Uganda for over two decades. Prosecution alleges that as one of the middle level commanders in the LRA, Kwoyelo planned, commanded and executed attacks committed against civilian populations in Northern Uganda.

The listed offenses include willful killing, extensive destruction of property, abduction murder, kidnap and robbery which he partook prior to his capture in December 2008.

Charles Kamuli, a representative of the DPP informed court president over by justice Lydia Mugambe that they intend to adduce 113 witnesses to prove their case against Kwoyelo. Kamuli further told court that witnesses will be protected under the available witness protection mechanisms. This also includes the use of pseudonyms, masking witnesses and testifying in judge's chambers where needed.

Kamuli also singled out seven pieces of crucial evidence that the prosecution will base on to pin Kwoyelo. These include video tapes showing the Barlonyo massacre, photos of exhumation, police statements, medical treatment forms and detailed postmortem reports among others.

Today's pre-trial session followed last year's Supreme Court verdict that ordered that this trial resumes before the International Crimes Division of the High Court.

The directive of the Supreme Court followed a successful appeal by the Attorney General challenging the 2011 ruling of the Constitutional Court that held that Kwoyelo was entitled to amnesty protection just like other warlords; Kenneth Banya, Sam Kolo and 26,000 others, who denounced rebellion and were granted amnesty.

The Constitutional Court had concurred with Kwoyelo that the refusal by the DPP to certify him for amnesty was discriminatory in so far as it deprived him of equal protection of the law under article 21 of the constitution.

But the Supreme Court held that the DPP was not discriminatory in his work when he slapped over 50 criminal charges against Kwoyelo that have now been reduced to 12. Kwoyelo was subsequently, returned to Luzira prison where he has been for the last six years as he awaits for his next appearance before Gulu court. The trial is scheduled to start on May 2.

Thomas Kwoyelo is the first person to face trial in Uganda for crimes committed while fighting for the Lord's Resistance Army. The other is Dominic Ongwen whose trial is set to start before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
 
Justice Mugambe ordered that hearing of this case be fixed for May 2 given that it had been halted for such a long time.

Kwoyelo's defense lawyers led by Caleb Alaka said the May 2 date was not convenient for them as they have election petitions to handle. The defense team also cited logistical problems to cater for their transport to Gulu court, accommodation, outreach of witnesses among others and that given this short period between now and May 2, it will not be possible to meet them before proposing October 3 as the convenient date to start the trial.

The deputy registrar of the International Crimes Division of the High Court Harriet Ssali, who was present in court, informed court that the Division will take care of most of the logistical of the defense side.

However, Ssali added that the logistical support will depend on the hearing date which she said should be nearer and not a far date that was earlier suggested by the defense side.