Justice Delayed but not Denied: The Prosecution of Thomas Kwoyelo for International Crimes in Uganda





Domestic law, International Criminal Law, Thomas Kwoyelo, International Crimes Division, crimes against humanity, victim participation, Lord's Resistance Army, complementarity, Uganda


This article investigates the challenges of the application of international law in a domestic setting as depicted in the ongoing trial of Thomas Kwoyelo. Kwoyelo, a former child soldier and commander in the Lord's Resistance Army, is being prosecuted for the commission inter alia of murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, and pillaging, all as war crimes and crimes against humanity under International Humanitarian Law, Customary International Law and the Penal Code Act of Uganda. He is currently standing trial at the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda. This trial is a unique test for the Ugandan judiciary, as it is faced with its first prosecution of an individual charged with crimes under international law. In a bid to apply international law domestically the Court has faced several challenges which have disabled the progress of the trial on many levels, arguably at the expense of the accused and the victims at large. The article primarily seeks to analyse the capability of the court to prosecute Kwoyelo for the commission of international crimes as well as to examine the challenges faced by the Court. The history of the conflict will be examined. This will be followed by an overview of the judicial hurdles faced by the Ugandan State in eventually charging Kwoyelo. The article will then analyse the present challenges faced by the Court. Finally, several recommendations are offered.


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Author Biographies

Brenda Nanyunja

Student, Masters in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law at the Geneva Academy of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Switzerland

Windell Nortje, University of the Western Cape

Dr Windell Nortje

Senior Lecturer

Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence

Faculty of Law

University of the Western Cape





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How to Cite

Nanyunja, B., & Nortje, W. (2023). Justice Delayed but not Denied: The Prosecution of Thomas Kwoyelo for International Crimes in Uganda. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 26, (Published on 21 June 2023) pp 1 – 31. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2023/v26i0a14103