April 22, 2016

Thomas Kwoyelo case: heeding victims’ voices

UgandaInternational justiceNewsTransitional justiceVictim's rights

Kampala, 22 April 2016 – Northern Uganda is currently the scene of two significant ongoing trials: Thomas Kwoyelo and Dominic Ongwen are both facing Justice for the international crimes they allegedly committed as ex-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commanders. In this context, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) and the Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI) are providing assistance to victims to promote their participation. The activities confirmed that affected communities wish to follow and be informed about the course of both trials.

After organizing a live screening session of Dominic Ongwen’s trial pending before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in late January, ASF is holding this month information sessions on Thomas Kwoyelo’s case, in collaboration with the Ugandan NGO Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives. Thomas Kwoyelo is a former LRA commander who is currently facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Crimes Division (ICD). The ICD is a special division of the High Court of Uganda which was established in July 2008 following the peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA with the aim of trying perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. While authorities arrested Kwoyelo in 2008, the pre-trial hearing was only held on April 4, 2016. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

Up to this day, three activities already took place. In April, the FJDI and ASF facilitated five community representatives from Pabo village to attend the pre-trial hearing in Kampala. Both organizations also held a public dialogue in Pabo to inform the community members about the outcome of the pre-trial hearing. Pabo and the surrounding areas is not only the home area of Kwoyelo, but it is also the location in which he is alleged to have committed most of the crimes he is charged with. Finally, ASF and FJDI representatives held a radio talk show on Gulu FM Radio, in Gulu Town, with the aim of reaching out to a wider public about the upcoming trial.

“These activities did not only confirm the overwhelming need to multiply outreach activities in northern Uganda concerning Kwoyelo’s trials, but it was also a unique opportunity for victims to voice their interests, questions and concerns” reported Patricia Bako, ASF project officer, who coordinated the activities. As a result, ASF and the FJDI observed that questions related to amnesty and reparations are still very important for affected communities in northern Uganda as they were very much debated. Moreover, victim communities expressed the wish to follow and stay informed about Kwoyelo’s trial due to start in May. Finally, they asked for the possibility to be included in the process.

For more details on the views of community members in anticipation of Kwoyelo’s upcoming trial, a complete report on the three activities written by Mr Lino Owor Ogora (FJDI) is available here.

Photos © ASF


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