The Lack of Progress in the Prosecution and Trial of a Former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Colonel in Uganda.
Grace ATALUI MOKANGO
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, was arrested and detained in 2009 and the International Crimes Division of the High Court charged him with 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, and recruitment of child soldiers, as reported by JusticeInfo. However, after 13 years of pre-trial detention, his trial officially began in early March 2022 at the Kampala High Court, and several witnesses were heard. Despite this, the commencement of his trial lasted only two weeks.
JusticeInfo reports that the International Crimes Division of the High Court sitting in Kampala “has planned to have a six month non-stop trial, but government does not have money nor even the time”, so “it has been decided to do two weeks trial every three months, meaning eight weeks a year”. The next session of the trial will be in early May this year. Furthermore, "everyone agrees, including the prosecution and the court, that his case has dragged on because there is no one who has remained in pre-trial detention for more than 13 years like Kwoyelo since he was taken into custody. That's a long time, and yet the trial has only just begun".
As for Thomas Kwoyelo, given this lack of speed, he would like to be transferred to the International Criminal Court to be tried like Dominic Ongwen (the same situation) who has already seen his sentence confirmed on appeal while his trial has just begun and this could take years on top of his 13 years in detention. Finally, because of the complexity of this case, the Ugandan judiciary calls for a common understanding of what is at stake and for the recognition of the means put in place to make history with this trial.
Source and further reading
Grace Matsiko, (4 April 2022), Uganda: Kwoyelo, 13 years in custody without trial, JusticeInfo, from: https://www.justiceinfo.net/en/89875-uganda-kwoyelo-13-years-custody-without-trial.html