The Hague, July 11, 2011 (FH) - The first trial for war crimes before the International Crimes Division (ICD) is set to open in Kampala on Monday. Thomas Kwoyelo, a former colonel with the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) is charged with war crimes notably for murders, kidnapping and property destruction.

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The trial will take place in Gulu, Northern Uganda, where most of the fighting between the LRA and Ugandan army happened in the last twenty years.

Kwoyelo has been in custody awaiting trial since his capture in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in March 2009. He was first produced before the Gulu chief magistrate court in 2010, when he was committed to the High Court owing to lack of jurisdiction by the lower court to try cases of this kind.

The ICD is a special chamber of the High Court which was created in 2008 following peace negotiations in Juba between the LRA and Ugandan government. Rebels wanted to make sure they would not be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if surrendering, but would be tried in their home country. LRA's leader Joseph Kony has already been indicted by the ICC alongside other LRA leaders.

Kwoyelo's lawyer Caleb Akala told Hirondelle News Agency on Saturday that his client would plead "not guilty of all charges".

The Prosecution has given to the court a list of 65 witnesses to be heard. However, "Prosecution has not disclosed witness statements to us though we formally requested", noted Caleb Akala, suggesting the trial could be postponed.

Thomas Kwoyelo was not granted benefit of an amnesty law that runs until May 2012. According to Joyce Apio who coordinates Ugandan NGOs' coalition for the ICC, this trial will be "a critical moment for the government' (...) It will have to draw a clear line between those who can benefit for amnesty and those who are exempted".


© Hirondelle News Agency