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Kwoyelo Trial: Court Sets July For Delivering Judgement :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Kwoyelo Trial: Court Sets July For Delivering Judgement

Juliet Harty Hatanga, the ICD Deputy Registrar told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday that the closure of the defence hearing is a significant milestone in the trial of Kwoyelo which had dragged on since 2019.
Thomas Kwoyelo Alias Latoni in the dock at Gulu High Court.
The judges at the International Crimes Division of the High Court have fixed July 12 this year for delivering a verdict on former Lord’s Resistance Army Commander Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni.

The decision follows the closure of defence hearing of the former rebel commander on Wednesday before the ICD four panel member of justices led by Michael Elubu that sat at the Gulu High Court Circuit.

Kwoyelo’s defence lawyers led by Caleb Alaka presented four witnesses during the defence trial that commenced on April 15 at Gulu High Court, some four months after the court ruled Kwoyelo had a case to answer in 78 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.

Kwoyelo whom the court christened as witness DWI was the first to take a stand in the dock and offered unsworn defence statements denying all charges against him.  The charges allegedly committed between 1993 and 2005 in Kilak County, present-day Amuru District relates to murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, pillaging, aggravated robbery, cruel treatment, enslavement, torture, rape, and outrages upon personal dignity.

The defence team also presented three other witnesses among them the former Acholi Cultural Institution Premier Ambrose Olaa who testified on traditional justice aspects, an expert witness who testified on the aspect of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a protected witness.

Caleb Alaka told the court at the defence closure that they are seeking a month from the court to enable them to put up a written submission to both the prosecution and the court.

The defence submission will entail the entire arguments put by the defence witness during the trial proceeding which is intended to dispute those of the prosecution witnesses.

“My lords, since defence called witnesses, we are entitled to open up submissions, we have the right to open submissions and the right to reply,” said Alaka.

Reading out the court’s order, Justice Elubu, noted that it’s been a long journey in the trial of Kwoyelo court noting that now there is a green light at the end of the tunnel.

“The trial process started in 2016 and here we are now. It’s been a long journey, and we would like to thank all of you for the efforts you have put in,”

Justice Elubu noted that the defence has a right to reply, and ordered that they should file and serve their submission by May 24, 2024, while the prosecution will serve their reply by June 7, 2024. The defence lawyers are expected to file a rejoinder by 14 June 2024.

The court also ordered that the parties involved in the case will be allowed to highlight their submission on June 28 in Gulu City while the assessors will render their opinion on July 5 in Gulu with judgement set to be delivered on July 12, 2024.

Juliet Harty Hatanga, the ICD Deputy Registrar told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday that the closure of the defence hearing is a significant milestone in the trial of Kwoyelo which had dragged on since 2019.

“…for us as the court and the panel, the closure of the case is a huge milestone this case has been on since 2019. Closing the case means that the judges require the defence to put their submission which is coming up on 24 of May and prosecution will reply on June 7,” says Hatanga.

She however requested patience from the community and victims adding that the court will deliver a judgement in the early month of July as promised.

“In any case, if there is a conviction, we should be able to see what reparatory order the court will come up with because there has been excitement and expectation from the community,” says Hatanga.

Kwoyelo has been in custody since 2009 at Luzira Maximum Prison in Kampala and is the first LRA commander facing trial in the domestic court relating to the bloody campaign waged by the LRA in Northern Uganda. A total of 54 prosecution witnesses testified against Kwoyelo in the course of the trial which began in March 2019 pinning him on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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