The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala has confirmed the charges against Thomas Kwoyelo, also known as Latoni, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels led by Joseph Kony.
Kwoyelo, who was at one time the director of intelligence and operations for Kony’s rebel group that terrorised Northern Uganda between 1987 and 2005 was arrested by UPDF in Central African Republic in 2009 and is set to be tried over crimes committed during the war.
On Thursday, after hearing from the state and perusing through the evidence against him, Justice Suzan Okalany who was handling Kwoyelo’s pre-trial confirmed the charges before committing him for trial before a panel of three justice of the International Crimes Division.
“The court has found substantial evidence that supports charges against Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni to the standard required,” Justice Okalany said.
The judge however emphasized that she had not tried Kwoyelo but had only referred him to the panel of three judges who will hear the case against him and determine whether the evidence produced hold water.
“This stage was only meant to ensure that prosecution has some tangible evidence to ensure trial goes on before a panel of three judges.”
Kwoyelo who was captured in 2009 from DRC faces 93 counts in relation to charges including murder, hostage taking, kidnap with intent to murder, aggravated robbery among others.
Prosecution alleges that between 1993 and 2005 in the present day Amuru district in Northern Uganda, Kwoyelo with others still at large being a commander of the LRA directed an attack to murder and kidnap civilians who were taking no active part in the hostilities.
According to prosecution, Kwoyelo after being enlisted into LRA, he underwent training before rising through various ranks to becoming a commander based in present day Amuru district.
He is accused of masterminding attacks on villages where rebels under his command opened fire at civilians killing many of them.
Prosecution also alleges that Kwoyelo is directly responsible for kidnap, murder, hostage taking ,aggravated robbery, rape, torture, attempted murder and enslavement among other crimes against humanity committed by rebels under his command.
Relying on witnesses who were victims of the alleged crimes, the state in its indictment says the rebels attacked villages before killing, looting and setting grass thatched houses on fire.
“One witness says the rebels attacked a village in Amuru district and took hostages but they(hostages) were later found dead with hands tied at their backs and heads with wounds,” reads in part the indictment.
Kwoyelo is the first LRA commander to be tried locally after his fellow commander Dominic Ongwen was taken to the International Crimes Division sitting in Hague to battle with charges related to crimes against humanity.