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, February 13, 2012

Blog Post 13 - What happens now?

What Happens Now?

My understanding is that there has been confusion and frustration on the part of some of my readers for the lack of posting/information regarding the Kwoyelo situation over the last several months.  Apologies.  I have also been confused and frustrated such that I have felt unable to write anything more than, “Blog Post 13…I wish I could write something that would make sense.”

In fairness, and since I have a modicum of clarity now, here is what has happened since I last posted about Kwoyelo being ordered free then having to write a correction:

Kwoyelo is still in Luzira Prison.  Yes, the Constitutional Court ordered the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court to release him based on our arguments that Kwoyelo was denied equal protection under the Amnesty Act.  The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP—Attorney General) immediately appealed to the Supreme Court with their main argument being that the Amnesty Act itself was unconstitutional.  As I type, the Supreme Court does not have a quorum and the ICD only recently sat and ordered the DPP to issue the amnesty certificate.  So Kwoyelo should be free, right?
Yes.  But he is not.

All of these things should be straight forward.  But as Francis always reminds me, things work differently in Uganda.  Even before the ICD sat and issued its orders, the DPP made clear it had no intention of issuing the amnesty certificate.  They even said that Kwoyelo is/was/would be charged with crimes outside the purview of the Amnesty Act and if he were to be released they would re-arrest him on the spot outside of the courthouse.  Even though the DPP was ordered to issue the amnesty certificate, they refused and Kwoyelo is stuck in Luzira until the Supreme Court gets a quorum (who knows when?) and then we finally (?) hash it out.  If we win at that level, we should win and he can finally go home.  Maybe.  If we don’t, we go to trial.  Will there be a fair trial?  Fuck if I know.

Francis has asked me to meet with the team in late spring to prepare our arguments for the Supreme Court.  I’m going to dovetail this with a trip to South Africa for a legal conference in hopes of making further connections to advance our human rights projects.

Before I end, I found the following description a striking contrast given this journalist’s take on Kwoyelo as compared to the one I wrote of my first meeting with him in Blog Post 9.  Read the whole article for yourself and please read the entirety of my blog so the stark contrast in perception of this tragic tale is made clear:

“Kwoyelo is a short stocky man with tinny (sic) blood-shot eyes and a snarly faux smile who has since grown a mane of long dark hair that he likes to oil neatly and comb straight backwards during court appearances. His shirts and pants are usually so carefully pressed it is easy to see why he was so precise on the field.”

From my blog (Post 9): 

“This accused war criminal looks at me shyly. I walked over to him to introduce myself. He can't be more than 5'2" His small hand disappears in mine, but he smiles. He has an exaggerated overbite and bad teeth. His forehead is narrow and he has inquisitive eyes. I am sure I want to know as much about him as he wants to know about me. We look at one another at length with all four of our hands clasped together.”

In fairness, his eyes are bloodshot.  I’m sure mine would be too were I him.  Hell, mine are just thinking about it all right now.