The five justices led by Amos Twinomujuni in their ruling ordered that the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Gulu immediately end his trial.
“We are satisfied that the applicant has made out a case showing that the Amnesty Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions have not accorded him equal treatment under the Amnesty Act. He is entitled to a declaration that their acts are inconsistent with Article 21(1) (2) of the Constitution and thus null and void,” the ruling reads. “We order that the file be returned to the court, which sent it with a direction that it must cease the trial of the applicant forthwith.”
Uganda passed the Amnesty Act, in 2000, was intended to encourage LRA rebels to abandon their rebel activities and be protected from prosecution for their rebel activities. But the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that Kwoyelo could not receive amnesty without justifying why. DPP boss Richard Butera told The Independent this year that the government had decided that Kwoyelo be tried.
But Kwoyelo’s defence argued that denying Kwoyelo amnesty when his senior commanders were granted amnesty was violating his right of equality before the law and unconstitutional thus seeking a constitutional court interpretation.
Following Kwoyelo lawyers’ reference to the constitutional court, The DPP through the Attorney General contested the Amnesty Act saying that it is in conflict with the DPP’s powers to prosecute suspects.
But the constitutional court dismissed the DPP’s contestation saying that the DPP on his part had shunned his obligations under the Act. “We think it is rather late in the day for the learned DPP to claim his constitutional independence,” the ruling reads. “He has failed to furnish any reasonable or objective explanation why the applicant should be denied equal treatment under the Amnesty Act.”
Joan Okuo, the DPP told The Independent that they cannot comment on the trial since it is the AG that has been representing them. While some people including Kwoyelo were excited by the constitutional court’s ruling, it remains to be seen how the government reacts to the ruling.
Some experts say that the government has expressed a lot of interest to back down and let Kwoyelo walk scot-free but one thing is for sure is that the trial has serious implications and how it is dealt with reflects on the independence of the judiciary.
Kwoyelo who was facing charges including murder, kidnap with intent to kill, destruction of property among others during an attack he led in Pabbo Sub County in Amuru district in 1999 during the LRA was driven back to Luzira from where he will be transferred to the ICD division in Gulu to formalize his release.