Shock at the High Court: LRA Commanders as Witnesses
Four of the five witnesses so far presented by the prosecution are either sentenced criminals or criminals on the run.
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First published: May 6, 2006
The prosecution presented a man who identified himself as Alfred Onen Kamudul, 33, a resident of Kasubi, a Gulu town suburb as prosecution witness number 5. Kamudul is one of the top LRA commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court to answer atrocities and other crimes against people in northern Uganda. He was driven into the High Court premises in a Toyota Corona at around 1pm. Kamudul shyly took the stand, introduced himself, and told court that he is currently working as a link between the government and LRA rebels.
That was all he said before this prompted all seven Defense lawyers to stand up in protest. "It is our submission even before Kamudul proceeds with his evidence, that this is abuse of the process of law. Regarding the law of Abuse of Process, my lord, court has the power to interfere with prosecution or defense in any manner that it deems threatens human rights and abuse of rule of law," David Mpanga, one of the defense lawyers said.
Mpanga said that Kamudul was and possibly still is a member of the high command, field operation commander of the Lords Resistance Army and should therefore not be allowed to testify. "LRA is an international sanctioned terrorist group. It's commanders have been condemned by the UN and some of their officers are wanted by the International Criminal Court," Mpanga said to the fully packed court.
He said that Kamudul oversaw operations of the LRA, which entailed the brutal massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent Ugandans. He led abductions, conscription of children and he personally committed gross atrocities on innocent Ugandans like the sexual enslavement of hundreds of girls and young women.
"All these my lord are crimes against humanity and yet Kamudul until today has never seen the side of or been through any due process to determine his grave abuse of humanity. It is our submission that as officers of this honorable court we cannot sit by and watch the State perpetrating what must be the most brutal abuse of the process of this honorable court by bringing PW5, cleansing him of all the wrong doing by bringing him to give evidence in this honorable court," Mpanga said.
He said that Prosecution by bringing PW5 contravenes the values of justice, equity and good conscience that are vital in the process of law, since the witness has not gone through the due process of the law and the victims have not gotten justice.
"It is our prayer that this honorable court should use its inherent jurisdiction to interfere with prosecution by not allowing PW5 to appear in this court or any part as a witness," Mpanga prayed before a seemingly shocked Justice Vincent Kagaba. Since this is a treason trial, prosecution is allowed to bring witnesses without first disclosing them to court and the defense as happens in other cases.
"We can only wonder if the State can afford to collaborate with men such as Kamudul whether in future this honorable court will not be allowed to hear testimonies from Joseph Kony and Osama Bin laden," Mpanga said.
George Abedo, a witness in the treason trial going on in Uganda, after he admitted to having killed, raped and maimed many people.
In response, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, said he will not be in position to address the court on "these fundamental issues raised". He denied that he and the State were abusing court process by bringing Kamudul to testify. He asked for more time to prepare adequate response.
"In my time of practice, I have never encountered a situation where a witness is stopped from giving evidence on such issues raised by defense," Byabakama said.
"No one in his normal sense can condone what the LRA has done to many citizens of this country. But it is not correct for defense to say that the State is collaborating with terrorists. The objection by defense is based on a manner that requires giving evidence on the bar as regards the activities of this witness," Byabakama added.
"I need to see whether issues raised by defense fall in the armpits of the principles cited. I also need to make necessary consultations," Byabakama said.
The presiding Judge, Vincent Kagaba adjourned court to Tuesday May 9th 2006. "Both sides have raised pertinent issues that need to be addressed before court can proceed and I don't see any objection from either side," Kagaba said.
By coincidence, an official from the International Criminal Court, Monica Mbaru Mwangi was for the first time attending the proceedings of the Court where Besigye, the runner up in the February 2006 Presidential elections, and 22 others are being tried for treason and related charges.
As Kamudul was being whisked out of court by Police and plain clothed security operatives, a sad drama ensued in the premises of the High Court as a man from a kiosk at the Court started wailing saying Kamudul is the man who killed his father.
Today's proceeding in court will go a long way to paint the government's case in a bad light as four of the five witnesses so far presented are either sentenced criminals or criminals on the run. The first witness, Jennifer Aryem said she was an LRA combatant. The 2nd, George Abedo was an LRA collaborator and confessed in Court that he beat people to death. 3rd witness Lt. Migade Semakula told Court he was once sentenced to death by the Military Court martial for alleged armed robbery, but was later released. And now the 4th: Alfred Onen Kamudul - a top LRA commander indicted by the International Criminal Court.
The government has for long been saying that they have evidence by LRA top commanders that Dr. Besigye was collaborating with them to topple the government by force of arms. But the bringing of Kamudul, who is wanted as an intentional terrorist, to testify as witness in the case is likely to bring a negative attention, nationally and internationally, to a government trying to achieve justice for its people through the due process of law.
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First published: May 6, 2006
Alfred Odong is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd with more than five years experience in broadcast and print media.