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Judgement date set for charges against ex-LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo

Ex-LRA Commander Thomas Kwoyelo (L) interacting with his lawyer Boris Anyuru at the International Crimes Division of Gulu High Court on 30th April 2024

Gulu, (UG):- The International Crime Division of the High Court in Gulu has set July 12 as the date for giving its ruling on the charges against Thomas Kwoyelo, the ex-commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) after his defence closed the presentation of their witnesses in the ongoing trial.

The defense legal team on Wednesday evening, May 8th, 2024, presented three witnesses including Olaa Ambrose, the former Prime Minister Ker Kwaro Acholi. Counsel Caleb Alaka, the lead counsel for the defence team, informed the panel of judges that they were closing the defence hearing on the three witnesses that they had called.

The first witness to testify on May 1st, was Ambrose Olaa, the former Prime Minister of Ker Kwaro Acholi who testified as an expert on the traditional justice system of the Acholi people. The second witness was Kwoyelo himself, and the third and last to testify on Wednesday 8th was an expert in psychology.

Counsel Alaka told the judges that the other witnesses were not to be called having consulted with their client, and their legal team.

Recently during the trial, counsel Henry Evans Ochieng, one of the defense lawyers told a panel of judges that they intend to call 48 witnesses to defend the accused. Some of these witnesses were supposed to be the victims, members of his family and former fighters of the LRA.

The state prosecution led by Counsel William Byansi, Lillian Omara, Florence Okello and Charles Kamuli conceded, and the court went on to give schedules for filing submissions.

The panel of four Judges including Justice Stephen Mubiru, Duncan Gaswaga, Bashaija K.Andrew and led by Justice Michael Elibu thereafter issued schedules as follows: 

DailyExpress understands that the defence will file their submission by May 24th, and the prosecution will file the reply to the submission on June 7th. Both the defence and prosecution will give the highlights of their submission in court on June 28th, and the court will sum up for the assessors at Gulu High Court on the same day.

Additionally, on July 5th, the assessors shall render their opinion to the court, for the judgement fixed to take place on Friday, July 12th, this year. 

The Charges

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The former LRA commander and Joseph Kony’s right-hand man is facing 78 counts including murder, cruel treatment, pillage, torture, rape, enslavement, imprisonment, kidnap with the intention to murder, aggravated robbery and outrage against the dignity of humanity. The victims are represented by three lawyers led by Robert Mackay.

The deputy Registrar of the International Crime Division of the High Court, Her Worship Juliet Harty Hatanga, expressed gratitude towards the commitment exhibited by all parties involved in the case.

“I just want to express my sincere gratitude to every team who have been in this case including the prosecution, defence, Court Assessors, a panel of judges, victims’ counsels and the Judiciary for financing the trial to ensure the case is fast-tracked.  

“We know they have been exercising patience since 2019 but as we committed to deliver judgement in July. We are on course. This is a testament to our commitment, to see that justice is delivered, and we pray and request that they keep a bit patient”

According to Hatanga, right now verification in terms of what happened to the victims, and reparation is ongoing. She revealed that the court has already received an application and admitted 103 victims out of the estimated 200 expected. She admitted that the process will be completed before the judgement is passed.

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At this point, Hatanga told DailyExpress that the defence is closing presentation of their witnesses “means the defence has exhausted the presence of all their witnesses, and they are now going to enter into submission. (Submission means the defence will add the testimonies of their witnesses to their case earlier submitted).”

According to the registrar, the defence is expected to argue for the dismissal of all 78 counts levied against their client and equally the prosecution is expected to resubmit and make a strong case for a conviction of Kwoyelo.

Kwoyelo’s trial is the first of its kind in Africa because he faces charges for offences under the Geneva Convention Act of Uganda as  Customary laws.

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