Joan Kagezi’s Shooting – a Huge Loss for Justice in Uganda [blog]

Uganda’s Senior Principal State Attorney Joan Kagezi, was shot dead this week in what police say was a planned assassination. Waza blogger, Samuel Okiror, remembers her fondly.

I’m still shocked and yet to come into terms with the sudden death of Joan Kagezi, who was shot dead in Kampala. Her learned friends, other lawyers, describe the deceased Kagezi as “extremely brilliant,”, “brutally honest” and “committed servant of justice.”

Many, in their social media posts, describe her as a true aocate for peace and justice for victims of international crimes. I could hardly agree more.

As someone who interviewed Joan on international justice stories several times, I know that she was a brave mother, lawyer, and a phenomenal Ugandan.

She was dedicated to ensuring peace, stability and justice in Uganda. She was a reserved, brave, welcoming person. For her work to ensure justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism, she has paid with her dear life.

Murder in Kampala

The widow and mother of four was on Monday evening shot dead at close range at Kiwatule, a Kampala suburb at around 19:15, local time. She was on Tuesday supposed to appear for the cross examination and prosecutions of 13 terror suspects.

She had stopped at a fruit stall by the road side, where she normally stopped to purchase fruits, when the criminals rode up on a motorcycle, stopped next to her parked vehicle, and shot her twice in the neck and shoulder.

The bullet went through the window on the driver’s side. Her three children, who were in the car during the incident escaped unhurt.

A dedicated legal professional

I vividly remember Joan for her unassuming warmth: jovial, ever smiling, and approachable whenever you reached her. Despite her busy schedule, she would always attend to me or answer my telephone calls on justice issues.

At the time of her murder, Kagezi was the acting deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of Uganda, and head of prosecutions at the country’s International Crime Division of the High Court responsible for international crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, terrorism and trafficking in persons.

Although many know and remember her for the investigations and prosecutions of the July 2010 Kampala terror suspects, Joan did a lot of investigations into the heinous atrocities and crimes committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commanders in northern Uganda, and the subsequent referral of the LRA case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Hague based Court in 2005 issued indictments and arrest warrants against the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya and Dominic Ongwen, who is currently before the ICC.

Courageous speaker

In one of her presentations on Uganda’s draft national transitional justice policy and our interview later, Kagezi spoke courageously for the abolishment of the blanket amnesty law which impedes the prosecutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity suspects, especially in northern Uganda, where the victims of the two decades insurgency between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are still yearning for justice. “With amnesty law still in place, we can’t prosecute any war crime suspect,” she told me.

Joan participated in the investigation and prosecution of Thomas Kwoyelo, a middle level LRA commander, who is still under detention despite the constitutional court ordering his release.

She was among the members of the team constituted by government to help facilitate the investigations and prosecution of Dominic Ongwen at the ICC, for the suppression of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

Justice for Joan

Ina addition to being the lead prosecutor of the terror suspects, Kagezi was also working with the police in the prosecution of the suspects in the recent spate of murders, robberies and terrorism in the eastern Uganda Busoga region and the capital Kampala.

Could she have been killed because of the role in the prosecution of terror suspects? Was it family wrangles or the LRA case? I pray the police will bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Joan has gone too soon before the war victims in the country get justice. She was one of the best prosecutors the country has ever got, and her death is a big loss for Uganda.

May her soul rest in peace.

Waza is proud to feature as part of its content local bloggers who have a knack for expressing their unique perspectives, independent thoughts and engaging stories. The opinions expressed here are those of the author. Be sure to check out Waza’s article on ICC defendant Dominic Ongwen’s family plea for amnesty, and don’t miss Waza blogger Lindsey Kukunda’s blog on freedom of speech in Uganda.

Source : Waza


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