The trial of the former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Thomas Kwoyelo, resumed before the ICD at Gulu High Court from March 16th to March 19th 2020. This hearing follows an adjournment on March 13th, 2020. The hearing focused on incident ‘D’. This week, one of the victims’ counsel was present in Court.
On 16th and half day of 17th the trial was held in closed session and the public could not access the courtroom, due to the need to protect the witnesses. In the afternoon the prosecution team called their next witness, who testified about the capturing of her brother and the killing of her mother by the rebels led by Thomas Kwoyelo. However before the witness could testify, the defence team raised an issue that the interpretation was not good and that the accused was not comfortable with the interpretation. As a way forward the defence proposed that the assessors would help in translation where necessary and that the Court officials would have to wait until a specific translation is complete before reading another statement. The Court accepted the proposal, though this still did not help to fully address the issue, as several complaints from the defence and prosecution kept coming up throughout the four days. Article 28(2)(f) of the Constitution provides for the right of the accused person to access an interpreter during the trial. Therefore, the Court not providing a qualified interpreter violates the right to fair trial of the accused. In addition, it is not the role of the assessors to interpret the Court proceedings but rather it is to guide the Court in reaching its decision.
On March 18th, the hearing began by the cross examination of the witness by the defence, regarding her knowledge of some LRA’s commanders. Thereafter, the prosecution team carried out examination in chief to clarify some aspects that had come up during the cross examination. The witness had earlier indicated that she last saw him in 1984 and again 1996 but during the cross examination she said she had last seen him in 1984 only. One of the assessors asked a few questions to clarify the witness’s statement. Due to the contradictory statements, the Court gave 3-4 minutes to both the defence and the prosecution to examine the witness again in the interest of justice. The prosecution team could not proceed to call another witness because they were not prepared to testify at the time and thus needed more time. The defence objected to this request though the Court overruled it and thus the hearing was adjourned to the following day.
On the last day, the Court could not proceed because of the statement addressed to the nation, by the president of Uganda, calling upon the closure of schools due to COVID 19 pandemic, thus the Court officials required time to go and pick their children from schools as communicated by the Registrar of the ICD. The hearing has been adjourned to March 24th, 2020.
This trial monitoring report was compiled with support from Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI) who observed the trial in Gulu.