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Kwoyelo Trial: Judge Asks Victims Not to Exhume Remains from Crime Scene :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Kwoyelo Trial: Judge Asks Victims Not to Exhume Remains from Crime Scene

Over the weekend, relatives of the victims of the alleged attack complained that the delayed trials had affected the relocation of the remains of their relatives for decent reburials in their ancestral homes.
Justice Susan Okalany reacts during a press briefing in Gulu City on January 23 2024.

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A judge at the International Crimes Division of the High Court has asked locals not to exhume the remains of victims of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo. Kwoyelois alleged to have masterminded the massacres in Amuru district.

Kwoyelo is facing trials on 78 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the ICD he allegedly committed between 1992 and 2005 in Kilak County in the present-day Amuru district.

Prosecution states that the LRA at the time under the alleged command of Kwoyelo raided Pagak Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Abera Village and Pabbo IDP Camp resulting in brutal killings, torture, abduction, and maiming.

Some of the victims of the attacks were buried in the IDP camps and their remains are still stuck in graves within the former camps in Lamogi and Pabbo Sub-counties to date.

Over the weekend, relatives of the victims of the alleged attack complained that the delayed trial of Kwoyelo and others at large had affected the relocation of the remains of their relatives for decent reburials at their ancestral homes.

This was raised during outreach meetings in Pabbo and Lamogi Sub counties in Amuru district held with the community members and a team from the International Crimes Division of the High Court. The team comprised judges, defense and victims’ lawyers, prosecutors, and the Deputy Registrar of the ICD Juliet Harty Hatanga.

Denis Lemoi, a former Commandant of the Pagak Camp said relatives of those killed in the alleged attacks have waited for years for the conclusion of the case and feel it is time to relocate their bodies for proper burials.

Lemoi said the community members intend to start the exhumation around this time and are asking for permission from the court to relocate of the remains to different grave sites.

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Pagak IDP camp was attacked by LRA rebels on May 16, 2004, leaving about 51 people dead.

Justice Susan Okalany acknowledged that the most urgent reparation the victims of the war need at the moment is the relocation of the remains of their loved ones to their ancestral homes.

She says that while the graves remain a crime scene for the prosecution case, some of the locals have since relocated the remains from the areas.

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Justice Okalany noted that the community members can also take up the option of applying for an order through the victim or prosecution counsels to enable them to transfer the remains of their loved ones.

She however said it would be much better if the community members waited for the court to conclude the trial of Kwoyelo in the next five months and issue orders for the exhumation of their loved ones.

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Jane Amooti, the victim’s defense counsel however said there is a need to come up with a comprehensive reparation policy for the victims of the alleged Kwoyelo human rights violation.

Amooti said that currently there is no reparation policy in place for victims of the LRA war and wondered how the victim’s counsel would participate in having those who suffered get compensated in case the court convicts Kwoyelo.

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Last week, Kwoyelo’s defence lawyer Caleb Alaka told the court that their client intends to present up to 50 defense witnesses in court. The defense team on Monday commenced interviewing witnesses from Paboo, Lamogi, and Parubanga Sub-counties in Amuru district, an activity that will end on February 27th.

Kwoyelo is expected to return in court on February 19 for mention of his case. He is the first senior LRA Commander facing trial at the ICD, a special Division of the High Court of Uganda established in 2008. 

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