The Government of Uganda has been asked to combine both formal and informal justice systems to ensure that there is timely handling of people’s misunderstandings, grievances and conflicts are solved in time to avoid possible negative consequences.
The recent report on Ugandan justice system has brought out all the gaps in the system as well as providing recommendations on how it can be made stronger, more efficient and appealing to all people regardless of their status.
While launching the report about access and delivery of Justice in the Rwenzori and Albertine region, Mrs Theodora Bitaline Webale, the Vice Chairperson of World voices Uganda, pointed that there is a need to strengthen the informal justice system to reduce on the case backlog which has affected most of the courts of law in the country.
“Some simple cases like chicken thieves, simple misunderstandings can be handled properly at lower level amicably instead of sending them to court. They can only be sent there inform of appeals or for review,” Webale said.
She said that the informal set up is so appealing to local people since it involves use of languages they understand properly with no lawyers and legal gymnastics involved.
“On the other hand, we also need a formal set up to handle matters like domestic violence cases which may not be properly resolved at community level where members may find no problem in crimes like women battering. So these two have to move together,” she added.
Mr. Gad Benda, the country Director of World voices Uganda, asked the government to ensure that they bring courts of law closer to people because longer distances have discouraged many from testifying in court and thus led to natural death of most cases.
The report titled “Baseline Mapping of Justice needs in existing access to justice structures in delivery of Justice” focused on justice needs and problems in the five districts of Kyegegwa, Kagadi, Kakumiro, Kyegegwa and Kyenjonjo.
Its findings stated that most criminal offences in the above areas result from land grievances which take long to be resolved.
“The formal justice systems of Police, ODPP, Courts, and Prisons are insufficient in addressing the existing justice needs leaving a wide accessibility to justice gaps for the communities. The innovations in informal justice systems especially like the Bataka Courts is promising, but needs empowerment,” recommended the report.
The report also suggested that special courts or special judges should be hired with a view on handling land cases which form the largest percentage of case backlog in the country’s justice system.
“There should be training of up country judicial officers in areas like small claims procedure, plea bargaining and exhibit handling because they have the potential of simplifying procedures and easing access to justice.”
The report further suggested that Laws criminalizing civil matters should be repealed. For instance, civil prison for debtors should be repealed by providing another better solution without sending the culprit to prison.