Change story: Justice in Uganda for terrorism and grave crimes


ISS training develops the skills of investigators, prosecutors and judges who deal with crimes ranging from terrorism to organised crime and crimes against humanity. The need for training follows the rise of violent extremism in Africa, and the call for effective responses to international crimes.

At stake is Uganda’s ability to deliver on its international legal obligations and show that Uganda’s courts are fair and competent. Investigators, prosecutors and judges have wideranging responsibilities, which limit the opportunity for specialisation. They run cases of financial crime, cybercrime and terrorism, with high caseloads and limited resources. The ISS helps them negotiate legal and technical hurdles, and improve the handling of these complex crimes.

Challenges include processing evidence from several jurisdictions, as in the July 2010 suicide bombings of crowds watching football in the capital, Kampala. That attack left 74 dead and a trail of evidence across central and east Africa.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility and the trial of the 13 Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian alleged perpetrators began in 2015.

ISS uses African judges and prosecutors as trainers and to help design the curriculum

Another complex case is that of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Thomas Kwoyelo charged with serious crimes committed over two decades across Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Efforts to prosecute him began in 2010 and suffered many delays. Kwoyelo is not wanted by the International Criminal Court, but his comrade in arms, Dominic Ongwen, is. Further complicating matters is that both men were abducted to join the LRA as children, and are in effect victims turned perpetrators.

These domestic and international cases now run in parallel, casting a spotlight on Uganda’s police and courts.

‘As a result of our training, police and prosecutors are working together more closely, and judges have a deeper understanding of the challenges,’ says Jemima Njeri Kariri, a senior researcher in the ISS international crime in Africa programme. ‘The complexities of evidence gathering are being addressed and there’s a shared commitment to deliver the justice that victims deserve.’

The ISS uses experienced African judges and prosecutors as trainers, who help design the curriculum. Investigators and defence attorneys help trainees study cases from different angles. Training involves simulations, case studies and debates about practical challenges.

Many say it’s the best training they have attended and that it’s useful to their work

The ISS also helped Ugandan police deliver courses at the new counter-terrorism training school.

The ISS counter-terrorism training manual and standard operating procedures booklet guide officers in terrorism investigations. Mentoring of Ugandan trainers has enabled them to develop a robust regional counter-terrorism capacity.

ISS training is welcomed by law enforcement and judicial officers faced with some of Africa’s most complex and long-running criminal trials.

‘Participants come prepared and take full advantage of the expertise available’, says Njeri Kariri. The training has been highly rated, and many say it’s the best they have attended and that it’s useful to their work. Uganda continues to request ISS training to help build its law enforcement skills.

The ISS manual is an invaluable asset. Its basic procedures guide officers on how to respond and carry out terrorism investigations.
– Chombe Geoffrey, Senior Commissioner of Police and Deputy Director in Uganda police’s counter-terrorism section

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