Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Former Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo, has requested to be transferred from Luzira Maximum Prison to Gulu prison.
His lawyer Evans Ochieng, told the court on Monday that the suspect wants to serve his remand near home to enable his family members to have ease in visiting him.
The former warlord made the request while appearing before a panel of four justices of the ICD presiding over his trial hearing that has been ongoing at the Gulu High Court circuit since last week.
Kwoyelo has been in detention at Luzira Maximum Prison and is facing 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, charges allegedly committed between 1993 and 2005, in Pabbo sub county, Amuru district.
Ochieng told the court that Kwoyelo complained that he has spent some 13 years in detention in Luzira Maximum Prison, far from his home leaving his poor family members unable to visit him. He particularly pointed out his elderly mother, children, and grandchildren who can’t afford to travel to Kampala to visit him.
“He is of the view that if he is detained in Gulu, some of his family would be able to visit him like any other prisoner,” Ochieng told the court.
He also presented other complaints raised by Kwoyelo that included his repeated requests to be transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague due to delayed trials at the ICD and the need to have bail. Ochieng says his client complained that he is the longest-serving suspect in the country currently on remand without ever being accorded bail.
Michael Elubu, the Presiding Judge however declined to comment on two requests made by the suspect on his transfer to the ICC and Gulu Main Prison on grounds that the matter had been pronounced by the same court before.
“Regarding the position of the accused person to be remanded in Gulu from Kampala, the delay of the trial and what is causing that, whether or not this trial should be transferred to the ICC, these are all matters that have already been pronounced by the same court. We shall not make any further comments because it’s on record,” Said Justice Elubu.
However, on Kwoyelo’s request for bail, Justice Elubu noted that it is his constitutional right to apply for bail. He, however, says if he chooses to apply for bail, the court will consider the application and make a decision.
“There is no automatic release for serving long sentences. It’s a judicial decision taken by a court after weighing all sides of a particular matter,” He said.
In October 2018, Kwoyelo through his defense lawyer applied for bail in accordance with Rule 54 of the ICD Rules of Procedure and Evidence but the ail application was denied in a ruling in 2019 on grounds that it would interfere with court proceedings.
Kwoyelo was committed for trial in August 2018 after being charged with 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The state has so far presented 41 witnesses among them victims of the LRA war, and medical, and security personnel who testified to pin Kwoyelo and revealed the horrors of the attacks in Pabbo Sub-county, Amuru District.