Hon Justice Amos Twinomujuni is especially remembered in the trial of the trial of Bob Astles

twino2I am so sorry to learn about the death of Amos Twinomujuni. I knew him well, both personally and professionally. Twino, as he was known, was a lawyer with outstanding intellect and acute forensic mind. He is the best prosecutor I have ever seen in action in Uganda. He raised the bar of criminal prosecution to a level that would have graced any of the criminal courts of the UK.

I first got to know Twino when I was a student at the Law Development Centre and I went to do my legal practice internship at the High Court as a clerk to the late Justice Ouma. I was the only LDC student working at the High Court at that time and that gave me a unique opportunity to do research for Justice Ouma and as well as Chief Justice Manyindo, both of whom were trial judges in all the major criminal trials brought against the officials of the fallen dictatorship of Idi Amin who were arrested after his overthrow and charged with offenses such as murder, kidnapping, abduction, torture, robbery, rapes, among others. These included Nasur, Bob Astles, Obura and others. These were seminal criminal cases that tested the newly re-constituted Uganda’s commitment to the rule of law.twino

There was great interest in Uganda and even internationally to see all these high ranking members of the Amin regime put on trial, and significantly, Twino, who was the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, personally took on these cases himself. This in itself was rare, because hardly would one see the Deputy DPP personally prosecuting cases.

I watched in absolute awe and admiration, especially the trial of Bob Astles from beginning to end. The tussles that Twino had with the late George Ayigihugu, who was the main defence counsel in a majority of these cases, were very educative to me as a law student. In the Astles case, he was represented by two English QCs. In fact, I think the standard of both the prosecution and the defence in these post-Amin murder trials was so high that they have never again been replicated in Uganda. Never again in Uganda can you witness a lawyer at the top of his brief. Never again can you see a lawyer make a closing speech lasting three days that it took Twino to close his case against Bob Astles.

Bob Astles was acquitted against the odds by Justice Manyindo, because there was no direct evidence linking him to the murders ordered by Idi Amin (the same likelihood in the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto at the ICC). I learnt a lot about criminal prosecutions from Twino, just by watching and observing him, a master at work, displaying a phenomenal capacity to absorb humongous amounts of information and even the tiniest of data. Twino would recall these all with ease.

Later on, I was to work under Twino when I joined the DPP’s office as State Attorney, reporting directly to him. Again there, his commitment to the administration of criminal justice was palpable and despite all of the challenges of reforming the department after the ravages of the Amin years, he still took on the huge challenges with energy and determination. We had a very huge back-log of cases to prosecute, some had been lying on files for years, and many of these we tried toclear, with some success.

Later, after I left the Department, I heard he had been seconded to the LDC to replace the long-serving, Mr Philip Iya, as Director and subsequently was appointed as a judge.

In him, Uganda has lost a great lawyer and scholar, a person who served the legal profession with distinction in various roles, first as public prosecutor, then as academician and professional tutor of lawyers and finally as a judge.

I wish his family well at this difficult time. Those of us who knew him will always remember him as a dedicated professional who was true to his calling.

George Okello
UAH member in London


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