Wednesday 22 November 2017

Judiciary urges government to facilitate legal aid policy and law

Judiciary urges government to facilitate legal aid policy and law
(New Vision 09/11/17)
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe

Katureebe noted that only 18% of the Ugandan population receives legal aid services annually.

The Judiciary has developed a robust Information and Communications Technology (ICT) strategy. It is expected that within the next three years, an e-justice will have been operationalised.

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe revealed this on Friday while inaugurating the Legal Aid innovations conference at Hotel Africana in Kampala.

Katureebe said it was imperative that the Government facilitates the development of a legal aid policy and law, adopts a-state-funded legal aid scheme and strengthens community-led initiatives, such as local council courts and a paralegal advisory system that would fill the existing gaps in legal aid service provision.

He, however, regretted that the system was still struggling to eliminate case backlog, which he said was one of the greatest systemic barriers against access to justice.

“The sector is also still grappling with the fact that most Justice Law and Orders Sector (JLOS) institutions remain largely urban-based and unavailable in 18% of the district, while 41% of the institutions operate from premises not fit for the purpose.

The justice system is further faced with many other constraints in service delivery that include lack of modern ICT equipment and reliance on manual processes, low budgetary support to sector institutions, limited legal reference materials, poor remuneration and conditions of service for judicial officers and other staff within the institutions and limited knowledge of the law and human rights by the majority population, among others,” Katureebe further lamented.

He said a report by The Hague Institute for Innovation and the Law (HIIL) on Justice Needs 2016 also revealed that 88% of Ugandans experienced difficulty in accessing justice in the past four years, with land and family cases being rated as the top two most critical disputes.

Katureebe noted that only 18% of the Ugandan population receives legal aid services annually, which leaves the majority, especially the poor and most vulnerable, unable to access justice.

Katureebe said that such a situation leads to frustration sometimes, culminating into criminality manifesting in acts such as suicide and use of extra judicial means like mob justice, which creates insecurity to the population.

He noted that there is an acute shortage of legal practitioners in rural areas and that the legal aid service providers currently available provide project-led interventions, which are not sustainable.

“Our focus should be on what work for the ordinary persons who form the majority of our population. Once we develop a simple, user-friendly and cost effective justice system, the majority will be satisfied and the rates of satisfaction will hit through the roof, which will have unprecedented impact on the public confidence in the administration of justice in this country,” Katureebe stressed.

By Hillary Nsambu

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