By Lawrence Kazooba
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ruled that Uganda has to pay former Lords Resistance Army (LRA) commander, Thomas Kwoyelo, for illegal detention and violation of rights to fair trial.
‘‘In view of the above, the commission hereby orders the government of Uganda to pay adequate compensation to the victim (Kwoyelo) for the violation of Articles 3 and 7 (1) (a) and (d) of the African Charter,” ruled the Commission in its 62ndordinary session in Banjul, Gambia last week.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights promotes and protects rights across the African continent.
The Commission also faulted the Supreme Court of Uganda for failure to provide reasons for its decision when it stayed the execution of the orders of the Constitutional Court which had ruled that Kwoyelo be released from detention and granted amnesty. The Commission ruled that the action of the Supreme Court denied Kwoyelo a right to be tried within a reasonable time.
‘‘The decision of the African court is significant because it re-affirms that the right to reasoned judicial decision. When the Supreme Court stayed the orders of the Constitutional Court, it did so without giving reason,’’ said Onyango Owor, the lawyer who represented Kwoyelo at the African Commission.
Mr Onyango said the ruling can ‘‘now be cited as legal authority in relation to illegal detentions in Uganda.’’
The African Commission ordered that government report back on progress of Kwoyelo’s compensation within a period not less than 180 days (six months). The commission urged the Uganda Human Rights Commission to monitor government’s compliance with its decision.
The African court ruling followed a complaint before it by Onyango & company advocates on behalf of Thomas Kwoyelo on October 19, 2012.
In 2010, the Constitutional Court had ruled that Kwoyelo was eligible for amnesty before ordering for his release but the State appealed to the Supreme Court that halted his release and later ordered for his trial before the International Crimes Division.
Kwoyelo’s lawyers had argued that their client applied for and had been granted amnesty by the Amnesty Commission but the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), refused to issue the certificate of amnesty on grounds that he[Kwoyelo] was a suspected criminal.
The refusal was then brought to the attention of the Constitutional Court which ruled that the former LRA rebel was eligible to be given an amnesty certificate just like other rebels who had applied before, a position now confirmed by the African Commission.
The Commission observed that the Amnesty Commission never declared any reporter ineligible for amnesty before issuing amnesty certificates to 24,000 former rebels and 274 more after Kwoyelo’s application.
The Commission opined that “by interpreting and applying the provisions of the Amnesty Act differently without any reasonable justification or explanation, Uganda violated the right to equal protection of the law afforded to the victim as provided under Article 3(2) of the Charter.
The International Crimes Division of the high court began to hear Kwoyelo’s case two weeks ago. The former rebel commander is charged with 93 charges including murder, rape, torture, murder and imprisonment, among others.
Kwoyelo is detained at Luzira prison where he has been held for the last eight years.