Thomas Kwoyelo trial adjourned to February, 2019

Thomas Kwoyelo trial adjourned to February, 2019
Former LRA rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo

The hearing of charges against Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been adjourned to February 2019.

The adjournment was announced Tuesday 13th November, 2018 afternoon at the International Crimes Division of the High Court, sitting in Gulu.

Kwoyelo denied all the 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him by the state. He was formally charged under the penal code act and the international customary law of the domesticated Geneva Convention.

Guided by Justices Duncan Gaswaga and Persis Jane Kiggundu, Kwoyelo consistently said “I don’t know anything about the charges and therefore plead not guilty.

The chairperson of the panel, Justice Persis Jane Kiggundu adjourned the matter shortly after Kwoyelo denied the 93rd count of the sets of war crimes and crimes against humanity. On the first day of the indictment, he denied 32 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity read to him.

The counts were divided into fifteen major parts covering various offenses such as pillaging, cruel treatment, torture and inhumane acts against the dignity of a person. The prosecution alleges that he committed the offenses while commanding troops of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Kilak Hills in present day Amuru district.

The charges stem from various attacks on civilians between January 1995 and December 2005. In one of the attacks on Guruguru Hills, the prosecution alleges that 29 civilians were killed by the LRA rebels, 17 sustained serious injuries and 21 were abducted.

The registrar of the International Crimes Division of the High Court Harriet Ssali took turns to read out the counts to the accused with the assistance of Philippa Bogere, a research officer at the court. Henry Komakech Kilama, the lawyer representing victims in the trial and the defense were not asked to comment after the indictment had been completed.

However, Charles Richard Kamuuli, the Principal State Attorney told the court that a complete indictment prepared against the accused had been read out. When asked whether he wanted to make the opening statement in the trial, he said he would do so at an appropriate time when guided by the court.

Kwoyelo’s wife Grace Auma, his mother Rosolina Oyela and two unidentified sisters were present in court throughout the two days of plea taking.

The LRA had waged an armed rebellion against the Government of Uganda from 1986. The prosecution alleges that Kwoyelo underwent basic military training and quickly rose through LRA ranks to that of ‘colonel’, the rank he held at the time of his arrest in 2009 from Garamba National Park.

Kwoyelo has been waiting for trial at Luzira Maximum Prisons since 2015 when his Amnesty application was overturned by the Supreme Court.