Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni has protested a move by the state prosecution to present new documents in court as evidence without prior disclosure to his defense team.
Speaking through his defense lawyers on Monday, Kwoyelo alleged that some of the correspondents presented in court recently are new and could have been fabricated with the intent to add more evidence to pin him.
Kwoyelo was on Monday appearing before the international crimes division (IDC) at Gulu High court where he is facing trial for 93 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Evans Ochieng, Kwoyelo’s lawyer told the four judges of the IDC that his client is concerned about the manner in which some pieces of evidence were being brought in court recently.
He particularly cited a letter written by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Jane Frances Abodo in September this year asking authorities of St Mary’s Hospital Lacor to provide records of patients treated after the May 16, 2004, attack on Pagak IDP camp. Pagak is one of the incident locations in Pabbo sub-county in Amuru district where Kwoyelo is accused of masterminding its attack.
The DPP’s letter also requested two of the hospital staff to be availed to testify in court with medical records of those who are alleged to have been treated at the time. But according to Ochieng, Kwoyelo has viewed the new evidence as part of the prosecution evidence which is being collected and fabricated against him since he has already been charged and committed for trial years ago.
"Some of the challenges he was raising had something to do with the late disclosure of certain documents. For instance, where you're bringing documents or collecting correspondences of 2022. He was like; these people are collecting or fabricating evidence against me. This case started way back. Some of those challenges he is raising, we have raised it with court and I think they will be addressed," saod Ochieng.
Ochieng says his client had threatened not to appear in court over the presentation of such evidence and prayed to the court to direct the prosecution to disclose their evidence early enough for the defence team.
Last week, the prosecution presented five victim witnesses before the court who testified on the alleged atrocities committed by the LRA rebels at Pagak IDP camp in which they sustained grave injuries and witnessed killings. Another witness presented was the institutional director of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor Dr Martin Ogwang who testified about medical forms presented as evidence by the LRA victim witnesses.
However, Charles Kamuli, the assistant DPP told UN in an interview that they are not presenting any new evidence to pin the accused. He says the letter the accused is challenging is about an old investigation that had already been disclosed in court and to the defense lawyers.
"What happened last week was that there was a letter. You know, when we deal with institutions, we write and notify them about the trials and the dates when we shall need them in court. The DPP wrote to the CEO of Lacor hospital asking for records of the victims of Pagak incident who were treated at Lacor. The list of those victims is already known, the medical forms - we already have them and disclosed them. But what came in was our letter we wrote this year asking the CEO of Lacor hospital to come and testify and also to come along with his registrar in which those victims who were injured were documented. There is nothing new that we introduced," he said.
Kamuli also notes that the victims who testified are old witnesses adding that no new statements as been added to the testimony of the witnesses. Lillian Omara, one of the state prosecutors however apologized to the defense for failure to disclose the document in question on time.
“My lord, we only concede to the time of disclosure which wasn’t observed by the prosecution and we do apologize because the matter came up when we were already in court and that we hadn’t foreseen. The only remedy was would have been to give for defence to study the document in question,” Omara told the court.
Presiding judge Michael Elubu noted that the general principle of disclosure must be made on time, adding that the defence must have adequate resources to respond and prepare for their defence. He however says in an instance where both the defense and the prosecution need to produce evidence that has come into their possession late during the trial, the court can make a decision.
Elubu adjourned court till Tuesday when the state is expected to start presenting witnesses to testify on incidents. At least 41 state witnesses have so far been presented by the state in court since the trial of Kwoyelo commenced in 2018.
Kwoyelo who has been in custody for 13 years is accused of sexual violence, murder, hostage-taking and kidnapping, robbery, and pillaging among others allegedly committed between 1993 and 2005 in Pabbo sub-county, Amuru district. - URN/The Observer