Judges Dismiss Defense’s Request to Question Former LRA Commander Thomas Kwoyelo

In a high-profile war crimes trial, a panel of four justices has denied defense lawyers’ request to question former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Thomas Kwoyelo during his testimony. Kwoyelo faces 78 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The defense team, led by Caleb Alaka, Dalton Opwonya, Evans Ochieng, and Boris Anyuru, sought permission to question Kwoyelo as he made an unsworn statement during his defense presentation. However, the judges sided with the prosecution team, which argued that Kwoyelo could not benefit from both making an unsworn statement and being questioned by his defense team.

An unsworn statement allows an accused person to present their version of events without being under oath and without facing cross-examination. Kwoyelo chose this option after consulting with his defense team, but the judges upheld the prosecution’s objection.

The courtroom in Gulu was buzzing with anticipation as both the prosecution and defense teams awaited Kwoyelo’s testimony. Kwoyelo’s lawyer, Mr. Ochieng, argued that they were merely seeking to refresh Kwoyelo’s memory, not to introduce new evidence. His colleague Alaka also requested a fair opportunity for Kwoyelo to present his defense.

However, the prosecution insisted that Kwoyelo had been given ample time and resources to prepare his defense, and allowing leading questions during his unsworn testimony would be unfair. Prosecution lawyer Mr. William Byansi stated, “He cannot have his cake and eat it too.”

The Deputy Registrar of the International Crimes Division of the High Court, Ms. Juliet Harty Hatanga, urged the public to follow the proceedings online via a webinar and YouTube livestream due to the case being sub judice.

Justice Duncan Gaswaga, speaking for the panel of justices, dismissed the defense’s application, leaving Kwoyelo visibly disappointed. The defense team requested time to speak with their client, leading the court to adjourn until April 16.

Kwoyelo’s trial continues as he faces charges for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed while serving as a Colonel under LRA leader Joseph

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