Govt blames Kwoyelo delayed trial on funding gaps

Former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo (left) at Gulu High Court on November 28, 2022. PHOTO/ TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • Thomas Kwoyelo is charged with 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been committed in Pagak internally displaced people’s camp (IDP) in Amuru District between 1993 and 2005.

The International Crimes Division of the High Court (ICD) has heard that the delay in prosecuting the case against the former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Thomas Kwoyelo, is due to funding gaps.

Mr Charles Kamuli, the state prosecutor, informed the court that was sitting in Gulu that lack of reliable funding was the main reason for the delayed trial.

“In the last quarter, we were not here because the money did not come. This is a big case with a lot of players; it has four judges, four prosecutors, four defence attorneys, and many court staff. To come here, we need to plan well but also have the money and have it in time,” Mr Kamuli told court.

“We have always brought it to the attention of all the parties that yes, we agreed that it has taken a long time and we have always said it took long because the process is handled once in a quarter, it is very costly,” he added.

Long detention

Kwoyelo has been in detention for almost 13 years. To date, only 33 witnesses of the 120 have testified against him.

Justices Michael Elubu, Duncan Gaswaga, Andrew Bashaija and Stephen Mubiru are presiding over the trial session, which is set to last three weeks.

But Mr Kamuli is optimistic that 17 more witnesses will be handled during the session.
“By the time we end this session (in three weeks), we will have hit 50. We plan that we shall hear one to two witnesses a day depending on the length of their testimonies.”

Mr Evans Ochieng, one of Kwoyelo’s defence lawyers, said the delays in concluding their client’s trial is not only frustrating the victims but also compromising also Kwoyelo’s health.

“Our concern in this case is how it is being handled. That delay is significantly impacting him because he is in prison. He does not know whether he is a convict or not, or when he will be imprisoned or be acquitted,” Mr Ocheng said.

Lawyers displeased

“It has dragged on way too long, he is mentally affected, and we have tried to encourage him. We are aware of their challenges of funding but we are saying they can do better than that, this is a state, we cannot say the state has run bankrupt,” he added. Mr Henry Kilama Komakech, the lead counsel for victims in Kwoyelo’s trial, said other victims are dying due to the delays.

Ms Beatrice Stella Atingu, the registrar of the ICD, explained that the sitting was lasting three weeks to offer the judges enough time to examine the witnesses and compensate for the time they lost in the last quarter when the court could not sit due to lack of funds.

Trend

Thomas Kwoyelo is charged with 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been committed in Pagak internally displaced people’s camp (IDP) in Amuru District between 1993 and 2005.
He has severally expressed concern about his high blood pressure and paralysis on the right side of his body.
 

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