Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Thomas Kwoyelo Trial Monitoring Update: June 11, 2018

Confirmation of charges hearing postponed; Kwoyelo wants to change lawyers
The confirmation of charges hearing against Thomas Kwoyelo has been postponed to July 23, 2018, due to lack of quorum from the defense team; only one lawyer representing the accused showed up for the hearing at the International Crimes Division-ICD sitting at the High court in Kampala on Monday 11th June, 2018. Note that the defense team comprises of four lawyers, two of whom were selected through state brief and the others by the accused himself. This defense team has consistently failed to attend three consecutive court sessions, the most recent being that of 11th June 2018. While responding to the Judge Hon. Justice Susan Okallany, Dalton Opwonya the only counsel present at the time argued that letters were served late: “We were informed through an email about a month ago, and although a physical summon was required, it was submitted to us a week ago. We are not ready to proceed because other defense lawyers couldn’t make it, and for the accused to have his rights properly, his representatives should all be present,” Opwonya argued.
Kwoyelo is currently facing 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 20 year conflict in northern Uganda.
The defense also noted that they received documents from the prosecution showing that they wanted to amend the indictment. “I learnt later, and my client Kwoyelo was surprised to know,” Opwonya said. It should be noted that the current indictment has already been amended several times. The defense further requested that a translator be assigned to translate the charges for the accused while in prison and hearing dates to be announced to Kwoyelo in time. Both the prosecution and victims’ counsel did not object these submissions. They agreed that for the interest of justice the defense’ prayers should be granted.
Meanwhile during the session Thomas Kwoyelo expressed discontent in the court procedures categorically stating that he was only informed of the hearing a day before: “I would like to know the proceedings of this hearing. I just received a letter today about this session. I would like to know why they can’t inform me in time. My concern is that I should be served with documents as required if truly I am the one being tried.” Kwoyelo angrily said.
He also asked court to allow him change lawyers, a request that was granted although he has to follow the required legal procedures. Kwoyelo said he would like to reinstate his previous lawyer-Nicholas Opio and that he already made contact with him.
The judge hinted on the lack of seriousness of the defense lawyers, “The lawyers whom you selected yourself did not give you a copy of the documents; it means they are not good lawyers; they have missed three sessions. You have to summon and talk to them because it seems they have left you alone. Your request is valid though.” She noted. The Judge further advised Kwoyelo to get lawyers who are more committed to his case because in her view the current lawyers are not. She also gave Kwoyelo a last chance to present lawyers of his choice in the next hearing.
The judge gave a clear time frame for presenting skeleton submissions by all parties. The confirmation of charges hearing was adjourned to 23rd July, 2018.

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