James Pirtle is a trial lawyer and owner of The Sentinel Law Group, PLLC, a Seattle law firm and he is an attorney on the ground for Legal Advocacy Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit devoted to financing direct legal advocacy on behalf of the oppressed abroad, including the state-sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community in Africa. This blog chronicles how his involvement in the defense of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, developed into a broad international human rights practice with crusading Ugandan attorney John Francis Onyango. This blog begins with their involvement in the Kwoyelo case and continues with updates and developments in the human rights cases. Read from the bottom up to see how it all unfolds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Post 10 - Kwoyelo is free

Kwoyelo Smiling
Thomas Kwoyelo is free.

"We are satisfied that the applicant (Kwoyelo) has made out a case showing that the Amnesty Commission and the Director of 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. We so find."

Thomas Kwoyelo is free. Equal protection under the law has prevailed.

Not but a few weeks ago this man was hoping I could somehow extract him from Luzira and get him asylum in America. Now he gets to go to his home village. His mother is waiting.

We were supposed to lose. I was sure that we would lose the Amnesty Petition. Hell, I helped write the brief on this before I even went to Uganda. We were supposed to lose. We were supposed to appeal (and lose). We were supposed to have to go to trial (and lose). Even though we had the best arguments, we were still supposed to lose. It wasn't going to be fair. The government was going to get whatever it wanted.

As Francis said when Nicholas and I dismayed about the futility of our work, "We must do or jobs." I guess we did.

As soon as the International Crimes Division sits, Kwoyelo leaves Luzira Prison and makes his way home. He can go through a reconciliation ritual and be welcomed back into his village. From there, he can start his life anew. I doubt I will ever see him again but he, and this, will always be a part of me.

This is not the end, but it is a remarkable end of the beginning. We still have the torture case to argue, we have the the other war crimes cases in the queue, and we are rushing headlong into the human rights cases (defending homosexuals from prosecution). I cannot wait to go back to Africa.


When Francis gave me the news, he was not rejoicing in the way I had expected but rather directed my attention to the rest of the cases we have to win.

I am so ready.

Thanks and gratitude for all that continue to follow.