Kwoyelo Trial Adjourned to January; Victims’ Lawyer in Ongwen Case Dies in Gulu

Earlier this week, the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo resumed before the International Crimes Division (ICD) sitting at the High Court in Kampala. However, proceedings could not take place due to the absence of Kwoyelo, the court assessors, interpreters, and witnesses. For this reason, judges adjourned the trial until January 2020. In separate development, Jane Adong Anywar, one of the victims’ lawyers in the case of Dominic Ongwen passed away in Gulu on December 10. She was in the country to consult her clients.

Kwoyelo Trial Background

Kwoyelo, a former Lord’s Resistance Army commander, is facing 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between January 1995 and December 2005 in northern Uganda. The main phase of his trial started on September 24, 2018. The first two prosecution witnesses testified from March 12 to 14, 2019. From July 1 to 18, the court heard testimony from five additional prosecution witnesses. The seventh and eighth prosecution witnesses appeared from September 30 to October 3. From October 7 to 10, two more prosecution testified, and afterwards the trial was postponed indefinitely due to a disagreement between the defense and the prosecution over the use of closed sessions. All previous trial sessions this year had been held in Gulu in northern Uganda.

December 9 and 10: Kwoyelo Trial Postponed Due to Lack of Funds

On December 9, proceedings could not commence due to the absence of Kwoyelo in the court. An explanation by the Registrar revealed that a production warrant had not been issued to the prison authorities in time for them to bring Kwoyelo to court. The Registrar promised that Kwoyelo would be present the following day. The defense on their part viewed it as a deliberate act by the Registrar, accusing her of not having informed the prison authorities. Also absent were the court assessors and the Acholi interpreters. The Registrar blamed their absence on lack of funds to facilitate their travel to Kampala. Justice Elubu, the presiding judge, was left with no option but to adjourn proceedings to the following day.

On December 10, Kwoyelo was present in court, along with the Acholi interpreter. The court assessors were still absent. Their absence was again blamed on lack of funds, a factor that presumably also explained the absence of witnesses. This caused proceedings to stall for a second day. Prosecution lawyer Charles Kaamuli explained to the court that holding proceedings in Kampala is challenging because it involves transporting witnesses from afar. Kaamuli also told the court that he had consulted the defense and the victims’ lawyers, and it was their common position that court hearings should be held in Gulu. The defense and victims’ lawyers affirmed this. Proceedings were then adjourned to January 2020.

Victims’ Lawyer Passes in Gulu

Meanwhile, Jane Adong Anywar, one of the legal representatives for victims in the case of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court, passed away in Gulu on December 10. Adong was discovered dead in her hotel room in the morning. She was in Gulu to consult with her clients, whom she had scheduled to meet in Lukodi later in the day. An autopsy later revealed that Adong died of heart failure and hypertension.

Adong had a legal background in Environmental Law, Land Law, Family Law, and International Humanitarian Law.  She previously served in the Ugandan Ministry of Justice in the Attorney General’s Chamber, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Justice Mission. She was also a founding member of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Uganda and had professional experience working with the National Environment Management Authority, Uganda Wildlife Authority, and the Uganda Forestry Authority.

Adong will be remembered for her work with the LRA victims in northern Uganda. She will also be remembered for her role in the Juba Peace Talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government in which she served as a legal advisor.

Her death comes at a time when Ongwen’s trial is entering the final stages, with closing statements scheduled for March 2020.

Lino Owor Ogora is a peace-building practitioner who has worked with victims of conflict in northern Uganda and South Sudan since 2006. He is also the Co-Founder of the Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI), a local Non-Government Organization based in Gulu District that works with children, youth, women and communities to promote justice, development and economic recovery in northern Uganda. This trial monitoring report was compiled in partnership with Avocats Sans Frontiere (ASF) who observed trial proceedings in Kampala.