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ENTEBBE - President Yoweri Museveni has sworn in new Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny Dollo, in a Saturday afternoon function at State House, Entebbe. Different stakeholders who included justices, members of the Judicial Service Commissioners, representatives of security agencies, the Ministry of the Presidency Esther Mbayo and the Head of Public Service, Mr. John Mitala, were in attendance.


The President appreciated the outgoing DCJ, Steven B.K. Kavuma, who was also in attendance with hid wife, Ruth Kavuma, for his long service for both the country  and the Judiciary. He also congratulated Justice Owiny-Dollo on his new appointment.


Mr. Museveni called for discipline within the three arms of the state: Executive, Judiciary and Legislature. “Discipline is crucial. If implemented by all the arms of the State, the country will move forward, “ he said, adding that he instilled discipline in the armed forces, in spite of their low salaries.
“If the Judiciary is disciplined in fighting corruption, the citizens of country would be happy.”


The President said he is aware of some of the Judiciary challenges like personnel numbe and workload. He however, said some impact could be registered with the limited resources.“You do not have to be everywhere…..you can utilize the meagre resources to do more becase not all cases are the same. You may for instance prioritise murder, rape, defilement and commercial cases,” he said.


Earlier, the Chief Justice, Bart .M. Katureebe, thanked the President for “injecting fresh blood in the Judiciary Top Management”.  The CJ appealed to the President to give the Judiciary another push to ensure that the Administration of Judiciary Bill as well as supporting the issue of officers retiring with all their benefits.
He equally said he supports the idea of judicial officers having to retire with their benefits, adding that if funds are unavailable now, “a commencement date could be agreed”.


Different speakers including the Attorney General, Mr. William Byaruhanga, thanked the outgoing DCJ, Steven Kavuma for his dedicated service to his country. According to Justice Katureebe, he and Justice Kavuma were in the same university class together in 1971 and joined the Attorney General’s Chambers together in 1975.

 

Source: Judiciary / Published: October 2, 2017

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 15:27

Judiciary ICT Strategy Launched

 

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has today launched a 5-year ICT that will see most of the court activities automated to facilitate efficient delivery of justice.

At the same occasion, the Judiciary also launched the Small Claims Procedure Annual Performance Report 2015/16, indicating a rise in court users' recoveries using this new justice innovation to Shs8 billion.

The ICT Strategy would, among other things, ensure that court users who cannot appear in court physically due to various reasons like infancy, old age, distance and costs can give their testimony via audiovisual link.

While officially launching the Strategy, the Hon. Katureebe thanked President Museveni for fulfilling his pledge of supporting the Judiciary to automate its courts. He said the government so far provided Shs6 billion to start the implementation of the Strategy, out of the Shs36 billion required.

“You remember two years ago, when the President had a meeting with the judges and we presented a budget of over Shs36 billion for over a five-year period and the President directed the Ministry of Finance to look into it and start. So this must be one of the promises that has finally come through and I am very grateful,” said the Chief Justice.

"I want to thank the colleagues from the Ministry of Finance for having provided Shs6 billion to start with and we are hoping that it will be sustained."

Hon. Katureebe also tasked the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Kagole Kivumbi, to ensure that the funds received for the ICT Strategy are fully utilised, without waste.

“Every cent here in this project, will have to go towards what is supposed to do. You may wonder why we are here under the sun instead of being in a hotel somewhere, we want every cent to go on this project and we want this project to succeed and we want to account to the people who have given us this money,” said the Chief Justice.

Explaining the importance of the ICT Strategy launch, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, who chairs Judiciary's Technology Committee, said court users would follow their court cases on smartphones, a scenario he said would reduce human to human contact that will help in curbing petty corruption.

On the Small Claims Procedure (SCP) Performance and Activity Report for the years 2015/16, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, who also chairs the SCP Implementation Committee, said the posted financial recoveries by court litigants is a significant and it translates into a huge number of court users who have benefited from this innovation that was launched in 2012.

SCP was established by the Judiciary to adjudicate over claims whose subject matter does not exceed Shs10m and a lawyer is not involved. Such matters that are usually quickly disposed off like in less than a month, arise from supply of goods, debts or rent arrears among other commercial disputes.

Also the new report indicates that among the 11 pilot SCP courts, Mengo Court registered the highest activity as regards the filing of cases that fall under the category of Small Claims. 

Mengo registered 500 cases and disposed off 437 of them in the last financial year, followed by Makindye court that registered 359 cases and disposed off 338 of them.

Justice David Wangutusi, who heads the High Court Commercial Division, said he is also a beneficiary of the Small Claims Procedure. He explained that after chasing after his tenant for long without paying rent,  he opted to Small Claims and that his sturbon tenant cleared him the following day.

 

Source: Judiciary / Published: September 20, 2017

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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 operationalized.

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.

 

 

Source: New Vision / Published: September 11, 2017

 

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The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) in collaboration with Barefoot Law and with support from the Democratic Governance Facility will this week hold the first ever legal aid innovations conference from September 7-8, 2017 at Hotel Africana. The conference is aimed at providing a platform to showcase innovations in legal aid service provision. The Hon. Chief Justice is expected to officially open the conference.

The innovations conference will also provide space to network and share good practices in legal aid service delivery especially low cost initiatives that increase efficiency in accessing justice. 

The Hill-Innovating Justice boostcamp will also be part of the conference on day 2 where the 2017 semi-finalists for the HiLL Challenge will be selected.

For more information visit / to register, visit the conference website: www.laicon.org. Follow the 2017 Legal Aid Innovations Conference on twitter via hashtag #LAICON2017

 

By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: September 4, 2017

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JO'BURG - Leaders who offer themselves for elective politics must have the humility to respect the voters that put them into power, the Chief Justice said at an international Leadership Forum.

Justice Bart Katureebe, on Thursday called for the “respect for the rights of the citizens and indeed for rule of law should not be done to please Western powers but because the citizens deserve it”.

The Chief Justice is attending the African Leadership Forum at Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, organized under the auspices of former South African president’s Thabo Mbeki Foundation and former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa’s Uogonzi Institute.

Other distinguished leaders  present are: former Presidents: Bakili Muluzi (Malawi), Jakaya Kikwete(Tanzania), Mahamed Marzoki (Tunisia), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Ali Mahdi Muhammad (Somalia), Mohamed Moncef Marzouki (Tunisia) and other government officials and Academicians from around Africa.

In his panel discussion on the topic: Good Governance and the Rule of Law, which he did together with ex-Presidents: Jakaya Kikwete and Ali Mahdi Muhammad. Hon. Justice Bart Katureebe noted that investment and empowering institutions that guarantee good governance and the rule of law is a prerequisite to development.

He challenged the authorities responsible for planning for and allocation of resources to give priority to institutions that guarantee good governance and the rule of law otherwise all investment will be in vain.

 

He decried poor facilitation of the Judiciary and other Law and Order institutions in many countries, including Uganda.

 

SOURCE: The Judiciary | Published: August 25, 2017

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KAMPALA - The Chief Justice Hon. Justice Bart Katurebe this morning officially opened a new auditorium at the Law Development Centre. Present at this function were stakeholders from the Justice, Law and Order Sector and development partners led by the Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda. H.E Henk Jan Bakker. 

The idea of an auditorium at LDC was hatched in the 2007/2008 financial year. Construction was funded by the Government of Uganda with support from the JLOS development partners. The auditorium can accommodate up to one thousand (1000) people and is set to contribute to legal education by providing space for general lectures, guest speakers, moot competitions and generating money from external users who will pay for space (Hiring this new facility costs 6m per day). The ultramodern auditorium at LDC is equipped with modern seats, public address system and is air-conditioned.

The Honorable Chief justice at the same event also launched three volumes of the Uganda Law Reports for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. These are important legal tools, which provide precedents to judges at the bench and Lawyers at the Bar.  The law reports are also helpful to law students and legal researchers.

 

Published: August 11, 2017 // By Edgar Kuhimbisa 

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 [DOWNLOAD PDF]

 

My Lord, the Deputy Chief Justice

My Lord, the Principal Judge

Honourable Ministers

Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court

Honourable Justices of the Court of Appeal

Honourable Judges of the High Court

Your Excellence the Head of Delegation of the European Union and Chairperson JLOS Development Partners Group

Your Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Uganda

The Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service

Heads of JLOS Institutions

The Solicitor General and Chairperson JLOS Steering Committee

Members of the JLOS Steering and Technical Committee

Heads of Government Agencies and Departments 

Partners and stakeholders from Civil Society and Private Sector

Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Introduction

 I welcome you all to the 21st Joint Annual JLOS Government of Uganda – Development Partners Review. As with past reviews, this is a day we set aside to review performance and discuss the challenges that the Sector has faced in the past year.

This is a particularly important review as it considers our performance towards the end of implementation of the 3rd Sector Strategic Investment Plan and it comes at a time when we are designing our 4th Investment Plan.

The Sector has undertaken a mid–term evaluation of the Strategic Investment Plan and a report to that effect is to be launched in the near future. This year’s performance report should therefore be able to provide a baseline against which we can review our progress by marking where we stand as of now in terms of the targets that were set by ourselves and by identifying outstanding challenges.

 

Building a trustworthy justice system for the benefit of all

This year’s review is being held under the theme “A Pro-people Justice System: Building Public Trust”. This theme reiterates our goal to strengthen the justice system, promote the rule of law and enhance the public trust and confidence in our ability to provide a safe and just society in which the economy can thrive and each Ugandan is supported to achieve their full potential.

Over the past years, we have taken measures to create greater access to our services and improve the quality of care that we provide to our clients. We have worked to create a more certain legal and policy environment and a more conducive environment for doing business. We have also made progress in addressing crime, improving the observance of human rights and strived to improve our accountability internally while at the same time holding others accountable to the public. In our report today, we will demonstrate the progress we have made so far. 

In addition to the foregoing, we have also worked to ensure that people in Uganda have a better understanding of the Justice system and believe that it can serve their needs. Building public trust in the justice system is a pre-requisite to the entrenchment of the rule of law because Rule of Law basically presupposes accessibility to the law, equality before the law, observance of human rights, speedy resolution of disputes, fair trials and the consistent application of the law. As you will note from our report, these are the issues that we prioritized under our strategic plan. Therefore as we take stock today of our achievements and challenges, we are also looking ahead at what we still need to do to achieve the above stated noble goal.

Our findings and those of our partners and stakeholders demonstrate that we have made some strides in this regard. The report of the mid-term review indicates that public confidence in JLOS institutions has increased from 26% in 2012 to 48% currently and public knowledge of the JLOS institutions now stands at 90%. Satisfaction levels with JLOS services, by those who have used the services, has also increased from 59% to 72% on average. In comparison to other jurisdictions, according to the Global Competitiveness Report, Uganda has risen in the Index of Judicial Independence from 2.8 in 2014/15 to 3.41 in 2015/16. The Country’s overall ranking has also improved from position 128 out of 144 countries in 2014/15 to position 91 in 2015/16.

In practical terms, the Sector now has a functional presence in 82% of the districts, up from 75% last year and the number of districts with a complete chain of justice has now risen from 53% in 2014/15 to 59.8% in 2015/16, following the completion of construction of various facilities.  The case clearance rate now stands at 125% and there has been a 20% reduction in pending cases. This has been attributed to the appointment of key personnel and the increased use of initiatives such as Plea Bargaining and the Small Claims Procedure as well as staff training and enhanced coordination and performance management across the Sector. Mediation has gained traction and we now report a 55% success rate, up from 26% in 2014/15.

As a result of the improved case disposal, we have also seen the average length of stay on remand reduce from 30 months in 2012 to 10.4 months currently and case backlog has reduced from 32% in 2014/15 to 25% in the year under review. Crime rates have also gone down as a result of the coordinated crime prevention strategies and improved investigations and prosecutions and the rate of recidivism is at 21%, one of the lowest in the World.

 

Addressing the bottlenecks hampering greater trust in JLOS

Our desire however is to see greater levels of confidence and satisfaction in the Sector. We are aware that case backlog remains a thorn in our flesh and relatedly the congestion levels in the Prisons are still excessively high. We also cannot shy away from the fact that corruption, whether real or perceived, continues to cloud the public perception of the Sector and ultimately reduces public confidence in the system. 

This is where we intend to focus our attention now and in the year ahead. In the Judiciary, for example, we have already conducted a full census of cases in the system and are set to work on addressing the challenges that have slowed our Court processes. We are combining this with targeted policy and legal reforms to re-design the justice system so as to better meet the needs of Ugandans under the middle-income status the Country is aiming at.

The Sector has variously embraced technology and several institutions are working on transforming processes and service delivery mechanisms so as to bring them in line with the changing ways of doing business and to meet the global ICT demands. Automation of our processes and the creation of E-Registries across the Sector is a priority that we have to pursue and achieve.

 These are not mere dreams but realistic tasks that we have set for ourselves and which we intend to achieve with the support of our partners and the general public. We have embarked on wide sensitization programs and information sharing and in this regard we are grateful to our partners in the media who have taken a keen interest and supported us in this endeavor. We urge you to continue promoting responsible reporting so as to enhance healthy dialogue in the promotion of justice, law and order in Uganda.

We thank our partners in civil society and the private sector who have worked with us, engaged us and challenged us to continue improving on the way we do business as a Sector.  

We thank our development partners, whose support has contributed to our achievements this and the years before. We also thank our partners in the various Ministries, Agencies and Departments of Government in Uganda that have partnered with us and supported the Sector in different programs. We look forward to continued collaboration as we take the Sector into this final year of the 3rd Strategic Investment Plan.

 

Conclusion

Let me take this opportunity to welcome our newest member to the Justice Law and Order Sector, the National Identification and Registration Authority. The Authority has taken on the mandate of handling the registration of all persons in Uganda.

I also take this opportunity to welcome the Head of Delegation of the European Union as the Chairperson of the JLOS Development Partners Group and the entire Delegation as partners in the future growth and development of the Sector. 

 I once again welcome you all to this meeting and it is now my singular honour and pleasure to declare the 21st Annual Joint JLOS Government of Uganda – Development Partners Review open.

 

Thank you for listening to me.

 

Bart M. Katureebe

CHIEF JUSTICE AND CHAIRPERSON, JLOS LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE

 

 

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Annual Review Document Centre (Speeches and Presentations)

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January 19, 2016 | Commonwealth Speke Resort, Munyonyo (Kampala)

 

The Rt. Honorable Prime Minister of Uganda

The Hon the Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda 

The Hon Justice Kihara Kariuki, President of the Court of Appeal representing the Chief Justice of Kenya

The Hon the Principal Judge 

The Justices of the Supreme Court 

The Justices of the Court of Appeal 

The Judges of the High Court 

The Head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet

Retired Judges

The Solicitor General

The Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service

The inspector General of Police

The Secretary to the Judiciary 

The Chief Registrar

Chairpersons of Statutory Commissions

Heads and members of JLOS Institutions 

Yours Worships

Invited Guests 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

 

It is a great honour for me to welcome you to the 18th Annual Judges Conference, which brings Judges together to discuss the performance of the Judiciary and pertinent issues affecting the administration of justice. The Conference is coming early in the year and it is only fitting that I wish each of you a prosperous 2016.  I hope that the New Year will be one of self fulfillment, contentment and bring joy to our lives, both at home and at work.

This morning we are blessed to have the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister as our Chief Guest.  We were also honoured and privileged to have the Hon. Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki representing the Chief Justice of Kenya as our keynote speaker.  We are honoured to have Judge Donald Bernice, a Justice of the United States Court of Appeal, Sixth Circuit as our Guest Speaker. 

I am pleased to welcome the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister to this Conference and to thank him for kindly accepting to preside and speak to the Judges despite his extremely busy schedule. The Rt. Honourable Prime Minister has throughout his political career been true to the belief that Government only functions well, when the three organs of the State work in harmony and score in one goal post for the common good of all.

I want to very warmly welcome Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki, representing the Chief Justice of Kenya to Uganda. Your Honour, I am grateful that you accepted to speak to us on the important subject of judicial accountability and its implications on the administration of justice.  Kenya has undertaken bold reforms in the Judiciary which appear to have restored public confidence in the Judiciary in that Country.  We are convinced that we in Uganda can and should learn from the experiences of our neighbor and Partner in the East African Community.

In a very special way, I would like to recognize and welcome Judge Bernice Donald, a Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, who is more than a friend of Uganda. Justice Donald, in 2014, conducted excellent training for Ugandan appellate Justices in Washington DC.  We all remember her for the practical approach to justice issues that should be of interest to individual Judges and Judiciaries interested in implementing cost effective and simple life changing approaches to reforming justice.  Your Honour, I hope through interactions with us over the next few days, you will be able to assess whether your students learned anything from you.

I hope that our two special visitors will find some time to enjoy the beautiful weather, and all the famed attributes of Uganda that led Sir Winston Churchill to describe it as “The Pearl of Africa.” 

Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, our relationship with the Executive and the Legislature has been excellent despite the occasional tensions. Our relationship continues to be defined by mutual respect, openness and candidness, with a common understanding that each organ of the State has a unique way to contribute to the development of the State in Uganda.  We all must appreciate the crucial role played by each of the three branches of Government and the need to accord each branch due respect for its independence.  The independence of the Judiciary in particular must be above reproach if the people of this Country are to continue to have confidence in the administration of Justice.  Let us all appreciate that the administration of Justice is a cornerstone of good governance, which in turn is a requisite for development. 

In the recent past, the Executive has focused some attention on the Judiciary and its most pressing problems. I would like to thank H.E The President for honoring his promise to improve the remuneration of Judges. Recently, the Government provided an extra 5.3 billion shillings which has enabled the Judiciary to double housing and medical allowances for Judges and increase salaries for other Judiciary staff by ten percent. This obviously is not adequate.  The salaries of the lower bench need to be attended to and raised so as to financially secure these Judicial officers. I hope that Government will continue to prioritize improving the climate for administration of justice in Uganda and remunerating Judiciary staff well.

Secondly, I commend H.E The President for appointing 6 Justices of Appeal and 6 Justices of the Supreme Court.   With these appointments, the courts will be able to improve service delivery in the administration of justice. I am hopeful that H.E the President will soon appoint 16 Judges of the High Court to fill the existing vacancies in the High Court. We also appeal to you Rt. Hon. Prime Minister to champion the presentation of a Resolution in Parliament to increase the number of High Court Judges from 51 to 82.  

Rt. Hon. Prime Ministers, there remains the issue of the Judiciary Administration Bill.  This Bill has been pending for an unreasonable length of time.  It is high time that it is given the priority it deserves.

 

The 18th Annual Judges Conference 

This year’s Annual Judges Conference is special in a number of ways. It is the first Conference that will be addressed by the Chief Justice from Tanzania, President from the Court of Appeal from Kenya, a Judge of the Federal Court of Appeals from Washington, DC and other distinguished speakers from other institutions other than the Judiciary. 

The choice of the speakers was intended to raise the level of debate in the Judiciary and expose Judges to global and regional best practices, especially from regions that have made remarkable progress in improving the speed and quality of the administration of justice through organic evolution, sheer hard work, innovation and judicial reform. We stand to learn from Kenya, Tanzania, Singapore and the United States of America, whose experience will permeate the proceedings of the Conference. 

We also stand to share our excellent reforms with our brothers in Kenya and Tanzania in the area of plea bargaining, small claims procedure, taking of evidence by Video Link, commercial justice and collaboration in the justice sector.  

 

The Business of the Court in 2015

Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, the courts were very busy in the last Financial Year. For the first time in our history, the courts disposed of 150,052 cases and for the first time, the pending cases were less than the disposed of cases. In terms of case backlog reduction, we were able to resolve most pending cases and new cases. I thank all Judicial Officers and other JLOS staff for the hard work and sacrifice that generated this impressive performance. I look forward to working with you in the New Year to further transform the Judiciary with the view of improving efficiency in the administration of Justice, in order to promote investment and public confidence in the administration of Justice.

I call upon Government to improve and offer competitive terms of service for judicial officers and Judiciary staff, which are at the core of improved service delivery in the Judiciary.

 

The theme of the Conference

The theme for the Conference is Promoting the Rule of Law through Judicial Accountability and Excellence. This theme was chosen to celebrate the benefits of the rule of law to humanity and examine contributions that institutions like the Judiciary can make to deepen the rule of law in the world. 

According to the United Nations, the rule of law refers:

 To a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency." (S/2004/616)

The rule of law emphasizes freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, and respect for the environment and shared responsibilities by all towards humanity. Its benefits to humanity include peace, stability, and respect for fundamental freedoms, good governance and equal protection. 

The rule of law is not a self-effecting concept and therefore requires a strong, independent and accountable Judiciary to uphold and enforce it, regardless of the level of development of a particular country. Judges should be able to speak with the full confidence of the law without getting worried about noncompliance with their decisions. 

As Judges, we can only do our job well in promoting the rule of law by, among other things, doing our work well and accepting restraints imposed on us by the doctrine of accountability in article 126 of the Constitution. 

Article 126(1) provides that: 

Judicial power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the courts established under this Constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with the values, norms and aspirations of the people.  

According to the Latimer House principles on the accountability of and the relationship between the three branches of Government: 

Judges are accountable to the Constitution and to the law which they must apply honestly, independently and with integrity.  The principles of judicial accountability and independence underpin public confidence in the judicial system and the importance of the Judiciary as one of the three pillars upon which a responsible government relies.

Rebecca and Olin have argued in their book – Rebuilding Justice “that the justice system is fundamental to our democracy. The courts are the counterweight to the other two branches of government, assuring that no branch becomes overzealous. Our founders specifically established a system of government that is not pure majoritarian rule; rather, it is a system that focuses on protecting the rights of individuals – even against the majority if need be. The courts are the last line of defense for those rights - safeguard.”

This quote is as true of the USA as it is of Uganda.  Our Constitution has vested Judicial Power in the Courts and the Courts have also been given the mandate to interpret the Constitution and even review legislative and executive actions.  This is enormous power given to the branch that neither controls the sword nor the purse.  But this also places enormous responsibility on the Judiciary.  The decisions of the Judiciary must meet with Public confidence and respect.  How then do we as Judges ensure that the Public continues to trust us and our decisions? This question has been answered by the Chief Justice of Singapore in a paper entitled “The Integrity of Judges” presented to the Biennial Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific (2013). [See “CORE VALUES OF AN EFFECTIVE JUDICIARY” at Page 5]  He opined as follows:-  

“If we stop to think about it, it is nothing short of remarkable that society in general accepts what judges say justice is according to the law.  What accounts of this? Why do our fellow citizens repose such trust in the Judiciary, an unelected and democratically-unaccountable body? Part of the answer lies in the qualitative advantage a judge is supposed to have over the ordinary citizen who lacks the requisite legal knowledge and expertise to check the rightness of a decision; we are expected to know and correctly apply the law.  However, no matter how learned in the law, how logically impeccable or how intellectually forceful our judgments are, all of this will come to naught if the very source of these decisions, the Judiciary, is perceived by the public as being untrustworthy.  I suggest that this is the bedrock on which we must stand.  Society accepts our judgments because they trust us and because they expect and believe that we will be the incorruptible guardians of the law; ultimately that we are men and women of integrity.  On this analysis, judicial integrity is the basis upon which our legitimacy as an institution is founded in the eyes of the community and it is the condition for public acceptance of our authority.”

I must state with full humility that I fully concur with the above statements.  We in Uganda need to think deeply about the sage words.

The Courts lacking the purse and sword as they are, have therefore got an uphill task to help the public achieve full realization of the rule of law in an open and democratic country, like Uganda.

The Uganda Judiciary has and continues to play its rightful role in upholding the rule of law as demonstrated by the increasing rate of case disposal, adjudication of high profile cases without fear and/ or favour and for acting against the excesses of the other organs of the state through its adjudicative role. We must continue in that spirit with even greater vigour so that the independence of the Judiciary is fully entrenched in this country.  Anything short of that would undermine the Rule of Law.  In discussing the theme of this Conference, we should seriously think about our duty and role in the preservation of the Rule of Law.  

 

The threats to the Rule of Law in Uganda

Limited access to justice for the vulnerable remains the single most challenge undermining the rule of law in Uganda despite tremendous strides in the administration of justice. According to a JLOS baseline survey access to courts was found to be a paltry 6.45% as compared to local council courts that stood at an average of 69.1%. As of last year, we completed 150,052 cases but we left 114,512 cases pending in the system. With these figures, less than 25% of the population trust the courts with the most vulnerable holding the view that justice serves only the rich.

Our timelines for case disposal, though improving, sadly remain below the international best practice of resolving disputes under one year. On average, it takes the Supreme Court 1200 days to resolve an appeal; the Court of Appeal 700 days to resolve an appeal. In the High Court it takes 740 days to resolve a case. For Magistrates, it takes 275 days to resolve a case. Appeals in the High Court take more than 1600 days to resolve. We need affirmative action to reduce these worrying destructive timelines if we are to improve access of the courts to the poor.

On the side of certainty of judicial proceedings and processes we score poorly. In Uganda, case schedules are not certain and most Judgments are still delivered on notice and even where notice is given, timelines are hardly complied with. Cases are adjourned liberally despite clear rules under the Case Management Regime which discourages unmeritorious adjournment. It is no wonder that many people perceive our system as weak, unpredictable, discriminatory and unreliable and a major drawback to positioning Uganda as a safe destination for investment, tourism and a safe place to grow in.=

We cannot in this era of great advancement in technology and improvements in case management across the globe, allow our Justice system to be inefficient. I therefore propose to make the following changes in the way we administer justice in Uganda.

 

Priorities for 2016  

National Court Case Census :

Recently we carried out a National Court Case Census to determine how many cases were pending in the Judiciary with emphasis on, among others, how long the cases have been in the system and establish the reasons for the delay, with the view of making proposals to better the adjudication process in our country. As of now, a team led by the Hon Justice Henry Peter Adonyo is finalizing the report. However, preliminary findings indicate that we have 114,512 active cases at different stages of hearing and many of these cases can be weeded out because they do not deserve to be in the courts. In addition, preliminary findings reveal that most of the civil cases are made up of interlocutory applications that can easily be handled through expedited hearing and allocating them to registrars to deal with them. 

Equally, we identified courts with a lot of cases and identified courts with very little work and some, non-operational. Armed with this information, we are going to design a comprehensive case backlog reduction strategy to tackle the existing case backlog through targeted clearance of old cases, weeding out of unmeritorious cases, deployment of staff based on case load and targets and heightened use of plea bargaining to address the huge case load of capital cases in the High Court.  Case backlog clearance will be combined with other interventions to improve the performance of the Judiciary. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no doubt that there is a problem in case management, I have instructed Justice Adonyo and his Committee to make proposals for a Practice Direction in this regard.

On this note, let me take this opportunity to thank Justice Henry Peter Adonyo, Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary Court Census and his team for a job well done and My Lord the Hon the Principal Judge for spearheading the Monitoring and evaluation team that monitored the two day census activity and their Lordships and Worships who stayed at their stations to participate in the exercise.

I also wish to thank the Executive Director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics Mr. Ben Mungyereza for offering technical support to the team that carried out the exercise. I am sure without this input the challenges would have been enormous.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there were no resources to undertake this exercise; however when I talked to the Secretary to the Judiciary, she looked for the money and I thank her for that.

 

Streamlining management of appeals :

In the Supreme Court, the Court will sit throughout the year to deal with all the business in the court. The Rules of the Supreme Court are to be amended to limit timelines for arguing appeals (this work is in progress by the Justice Tsekooko Committee on Reform of Civil and Criminal Laws). 

It is proposed that all appeals will be filed with written submissions and oral arguments will be limited to not more than one hour per appeal. Oral arguments will only be limited to clarifications by counsel on points which are not clear. Dates for delivery of judgments will be communicated at the end of the trial, except in exceptional circumstances, where the parties will be notified within two weeks.  

Internally within the court, Justices who are tasked with writing draft judgments of the court will be given a specified number of days to generate drafts. Responses to the drafts by the other members of the Coram shall be done also within a specified period. My goal is to have judgments of the Supreme Court out in less than 90 days but in any case not later than 180 days. Selection of the Coram of Justices to hear cases will be made in such a way as to promote transparency in the administration of justice.  Adjournments and ill preparation of counsel and records will be severely discouraged to promote procedural efficiency.  These innovations will equally apply to the Court of Appeal to improve the efficiency and performance of the court.

 

Reducing Red tape and Bureaucracy in the administration of Justice :

I intend to pro-actively use Article 133 (1) of the Constitution to enhance efficiency in the administration of justice in Uganda through issuance of Orders and Directions, especially, in reducing red tape, bureaucracy, maladministration of justice and inefficiency. The makers of the Constitution in enacting this provision, were motivated by the need to streamline the administration of justice and give the Chief Justice Powers to deal with people’s concerns about the Judiciary which included delay of justice, discrimination, indiscipline and impunity by judicial officers and other vices in the administration of justice. 

 

Revolutionalising hearing of interlocutory applications :

Simplifying, limiting and easing hearing of interlocutory applications which constitute 60% of civil cases throughout all the courts is to be prioritized through the reform of the Civil Procedure Rules.  The goal should be to clear applications within a short time and at the least cost to the parties. Consequently, the Civil Procedure Rules are to be amended to provide for filing of applications and responses with written submission to limit oral hearings. Judges and Registrars are to be empowered under the same amendment to dispose the applications with or without hearing the parties except where the justice of the case demands oral arguments.  Through this procedure, we hope to dispose of cases promptly and reserve the limited court time for hearing of substantive applications.  That said, the Rules will have inbuilt safeguards to prevent abuse of court process by all the officers of the court.

 

Efficient utilization of judicial time: 

We lose a lot of judicial time on travels abroad and attending workshops/seminars that are not essential or do not add value to the courts. Consequently, judicial officers, will be allowed to travel abroad if the judicial calendar permits.  Priority must be given  to adjudication of cases.

The Deputy Chief Justice, the Principal Judge and the Chief Registrar will have to clear individual officers before making submissions to the Chief Justice for the final clearance. In the same vein, funding for foreign travel, which has in the past eaten into the operational budget of the Judiciary will be minimised and savings applied to funding court sessions and operations. The Judicial Studies Institute through the Judicial Training Committee should issue a training timetable for the year, which shall guide all the courts. Training activities outside the Judicial training calendar will be minimised, to discourage incessant movement of judicial officers from courts to training venues.

 

Institutionalizing Targets for Judicial Officers:

Each judicial officer will have to meet their targets which have been set. For ease of reference, the target for the Supreme Court is 80 appeals and Court of Appeal 600 appeals. The target for a High Court Judge is 300 cases;  a Registrar 400 cases, a Chief Magistrate 600 - this target has been adjusted from the previous target of 800 cases; Magistrate Grade I, 400 cases and new magistrate 300 cases. The Registry of Performance Management, together with the Registry for Magistrates Affairs, will be tasked with generating data for following up the targets. Resources are to be provided for the courts to meet the targets, although I must emphasize that courts should employ cost neutral innovations and timely decision making to deal with most of the business before the courts.

 

Performance management: 

Performance management is to be rolled out soon in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the High Court and some selected Magistrates Courts in the country. Funding for the roll out will be sourced from the Government of Uganda as Danida funds will not be available until 2017.

 

Filling Existing Vacancies and Engagement of Acting Judges :

All existing vacancies are to be filled in the service especially in the High Court where there are 16 vacancies, the Court of Appeal 2 vacancies and the Supreme Court 2 vacancies. To this effect, I am grateful to Ministry of Finance for providing ten billion shillings in the next financial year for recruitment of Judges. The Judicial Service Commission has appointed 56 Magistrates Grade I and one Senior Magistrate Grade I.     A Cabinet Memorandum seeking the recruitment of acting judges and retention of retired judges will be presented to Cabinet by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.  My goal is to engage acting Judges to deal with the high number of pending cases in the Court of Appeal and to some extent, the High Court.

 

Strengthening the Inspectorate of Courts:

The Inspectorate of Courts has been strengthened with the appointment of Justice of Supreme Court as the Chief Inspector and other Sub Inspectors of Courts to, among others, identify and correct inefficiencies in courts; investigate noncompliance with statutory provisions; investigate cases of incompetence by judicial officers to improve the quality of justice and eliminate judicial impunity which is slowly creeping in courts that were hitherto considered safe. The scope of the reformed inspectorate is to be discussed in the Conference.

 

Public Outreach:

Judges in the Circuits will be expected to have at least two court open days in the year to engage and reach out to the public to bridge the gap between the people and the courts. In my upcountry trips I have noticed that the courts can repair the damaged relationships with the public and improve public confidence in the Judiciary by listening to the people and solving some of their problems as can be seen from the experiences of courts that have close ties with the community. 

Public outreaches will be promoted because it has been established that the public have an important role to play in helping the justice system to identify, priorities, and solve local problems. Actively engaging citizens helps improve public trust in the justice system. Greater trust, in turn, helps people safer, foster laws abiding behavior, and makes members of the public more willing to cooperate in pursuit of justice. We shall use our elaborate network under the Justice Law and Order Sector to engage the public; in particular to root out petty corruption that is undermining public confidence in the Judiciary and weakening the rule of law.

 

Establishment of Technical support to the Judiciary on Law Reform:

I have also established an office with support from the Uganda Law Reform Commission, which has seconded one of its officers, Mr. Khaukha Andrew as Technical Advisor to the Judiciary on law reform, to be able to follow up on the issues of law reform. Quite often, on occasions like this, we make recommendations on law reform and there is no one to make a follow up on them. In addition we have law reform programmes that we have embraced like plea bargaining and sentencing guidelines that need constant monitoring and feedback. The presence of a Technical Advisor will help us a great deal. 

 

Knowledge transfer from the USA to Uganda - Memorandum of Understanding between the Judiciary and Pepperdine University:

Rt. Hon Prime Minister and fellow participants, the Judiciary has since 2008 been closely working on a number of initiatives with Pepperdine University in the United States of America. The initiatives include; capacity building in the areas of alternative dispute solution, mediation, plea bargaining, Internship and externship programmes, among others. We shall continue to work with Pepperdine University to expand and develop programmes in the area of access to justice through knowledge transfer from the United States of America to Uganda and developing local initiatives to deal with case backlog.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the Judicial Studies Institute and the Judicial Training Committee together with the administration for arranging the Conference. Arranging and assembling a Conference of this kind can be challenging given the high level nature of the event. 

You have done it well and deserve our deserved gratitude. I wish you a successful Conference. For God and My Country!

It is now my singular honor to invite the Rt. Hon Prime Minister to address and officially open the Judges Conference.

 

Bart M. Katureebe

CHIEF JUSTICE

 

Published: January 19, 2016

Published in Latest News
Monday, 25 January 2016 12:33

New Law Year 2016: Speech by the CJ

 

The Hon the Deputy Chief Justice 

The Hon the Principal Judge

The Hon Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs 

The Hon Attorney General 

His Eminence The Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Church of Uganda

 

Your Lordships the Justices and Judges of the Courts of Judicature 

The Director Public Prosecutions

Your Excellences, Members of Diplomatic Corps

Hon Members of Parliament Present

Members of Constitutional Commissions

The Head of Public Service/ Secretary to Cabinet

The Solicitor General

The Secretary to Judiciary 

The Chief Registrar

The President of the Uganda Law Society 

The President of the Uganda Judicial Officers’ Association

Your Worships 

Senior Administrators of the Judiciary 

Members of the Bar

All invited Guests

 

Fellow Ugandans, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The beginning of the New Year marks the end of the previous legal year and signals the beginning of another year for the wheels of justice to continue on their relentless journey of dispensing justice in fulfillment of the mission of the Judiciary, which is: to be an independent, competent, trusted and accountable Judiciary that administers justice to all. 

 

It is therefore with great joy that I join the previous speakers in wishing you a happy new year.  It is my sincere wish that 2016 will be a great year for all of us in our personal and professional lives. For the courts, I hope it will be a year in which we shall see the fading back of case backlog.

 

This Law Year is a special year for me because it is my first, since being appointed as Chief Justice of Uganda. I would like to use this occasion to assure the people of Uganda that I shall work with you to improve administration of justice in Uganda through:  Strengthening integrity  in the Judiciary; Developing new products of justice to broaden and deepen access to justice especially for the vulnerable ; Institutionalizing a culture of performance and accountability amongst Judicial Officers; Improving the remuneration and working conditions of Judiciary staff ; Promoting public engagement in the administration of justice;  and, Improving relations between the organs of the State while protecting the independence of the Judiciary.

 

I shall count on your support and team work to transform the Judiciary.

 

Last year was a remarkable year for the Judiciary in many respects. The Judiciary scored several milestones. First, H.E The President appointed a Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice after more than eighteen months of waiting. 

 

Secondly, H.E the President appointed six Justices of the Supreme Court and six Justices of the Court of Appeal.  I hope that H.E will soon appoint the remaining 2 Justices of the Supreme Court, 2 Justices of the Court of Appeal and 16 Judges of the High Court. 

 

I commend the Judicial Service Commission for appointing 23 Deputy Registrars, 21 Chief Magistrates, 2 Senior Principal Magistrates Grade I , 4 Principal Magistrates Grade I,  1 Senior Magistrate Grade I and 56 Magistrates Grade 1.  

 

Thirdly, the Judiciary had cordial relations with Parliament and the Executive. The Judiciary had a very useful meeting with Members of Parliament, when Parliament, for the first time in our history, sat in Court Room Number 1 to discuss the Budget of the Judiciary.  This important meeting, was followed by a cordial meeting between H.E The President, and Judges, at State House, Entebbe. Our meeting with the President underscored the oneness of Government without diminishing the trinity of separation of powers and the need for the three organs of the State to be adequately funded and facilitated so as to work for the common good of the Country. We considered the role of the Judiciary in national development and shared some of our challenges with the Executive, which culminated into promises for greater cooperation between the organs of the State, and better funding and facilitation of the Judiciary. It was agreed at this meeting that terms and conditions of service of judicial officers should be improved; that Judges should retire with their full salaries, and that a policy should be developed to retain retired Judges to assist the courts during emergencies. Government also, undertook in a phased manner, to construct staff houses for Judicial Officers at all the stations to ease their accommodation. Government also committed to finding resources to purchase suitable vehicles for Magistrates in a phased manner.  This would go a long way in assisting Magistrates to visit locus in quo in land matters.  The Executive committed to funding the computerization of the Judiciary spreading over a period of 5 years.

 

Some work has been done on implementing the directives of the meeting. Suffice to mention that funds have been released to double the housing and medical allowances of Judges. A resolution to amend Schedule ‘A’  of the Salaries Allowances of Specified Officers Act will soon be processed to effect the changes. Here, I hope the Ministry of Public Service will move swiftly on this. Allowances of the Lower Bench were increased by 10% of their salaries. However, the increase is inadequate. We need to lobby Government for more resources to inter alia: Increase salaries of the Chief Registrar, Registrars, Chief Magistrates, Magistrates Grade I and Magistrates Grade II that have remained static for more than 5 years; Increase funds to cater for court operations to pay for sessions considering the high rate of crime and litigation.

 

STATEMENT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE JUDICIARY IN 2014/15:

 

The mandate of the Judiciary is to administer justice through interpretation of the law and adjudication of cases.  In the Financial Year 2014/15, the the Courts completed 150,052 cases in comparison to 128,000 cases completed in 2013/14 and 109,000 cases completed in 2012/13 Financial Years.

 

I attribute this impressive performance to the hard work of Judicial Officers and reforms we are implementing to improve the face, soul and body of Justice. I would like therefore, to thank Magistrates Grades II, Magistrates Grade I, Chief Magistrates, Registrars, Judges of the High Court, Justices of the Court of Appeal and Justices of the Supreme Court together with the administration and the entire staff of the Judiciary, Members of the Uganda Law Society, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Police and the Public, for exercising your mandates that enabled this excellent performance. Thank you all for a job well done.  We shall not ask for national medals but we only have to re-double our efforts so that the public get quick and effective justice.  The satisfaction of the Public with our services is the ultimate medal we should seek to achieve.

 

As we celebrate the huge increase in case disposal, we should not lose sight of 114,512 pending cases in the courts as well as the thousands, of unresolved disputes or unmet legal needs that never reached the courts.  Some of these cases are more than ten years old and represent what others have called the dilemma of access to justice. 

 

The presence of too many pending cases is an embarrassment to the Judiciary, and a serious affront on the rule of law. I therefore, call upon the JLOS stakeholders especially the Judicial Officers, Members of the Bar – public and private, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Police and members of the public to join hands with the Judiciary to clear the backlog. 

 

I am aware that besides the human resource constraint, the current Civil and Criminal laws, are inadequate. The law must therefore, be reformed to expand Alternative Dispute Resolution, electronic filing, discourage unnecessary adjournments, introduce filing of Skelton arguments, allow payment of court fees using mobile money platforms, among others. I have, therefore, set up a committee chaired by Justice Tsekooko to, among others, study the proposals made by the Uganda Law Reform Commission to reform civil and criminal laws impacting on the administration of justice. I wish to thank the Chairperson of the Uganda Law Reform Commission and her team for having undertaken a study on these laws.

 

Resource envelope for the Judiciary comes from both Government of Uganda and Donors (bilateral and the Sector basket funding from JLOS). 

 

Tthe wage (Salaries) provision has grown from 23.3 billion in Financial Year 2013/14, to 24.876 billion in FY 2014/15 and to 25.876 billion for FY 2015/16. This projection has been maintained in FY 2016/17. The Non -wage Component which caters for the day to day running of the Courts stagnated at 50.9 billion in FY 2013/15 and FY 2014/15. There was a slight increase in FY 2015/16 to cater for Exgratia payments for retired Justices and Pensions. The stagnation of this very important budget component has led to slow implementation of activities. The Government made a supplementary provision of 5 billion in FY 2015/16 which we hope will alongside 3.76 billion for arrears, form part of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework ( MTEF) allocation for the FY 2016/17. On the contrary however, the Development component which caters for among others, provision of vehicles, ICT and constructions; has been on a decline from 10.8 billion in FY 2013/14 then to 8.801 billion and to 5.949 billion in FY 2015/16 and the projection for FY 2016/17 is 5.189 billion.

There has been targeted one off funding from UNICEF while support from DANIDA is winding up in June 2016. This may leave the Judiciary with only one source of Funding.

There is need to provide more resources to cater for the non wage requirements such as reduction of case backlog of the Judiciary and the Development Component to provide a robust ICT infrastructure, transport for Supervision and visiting locus in quo and court infrastructure which, has hitherto been a preserve of donor funding. 

 

SUPPORT SERVICES TO THE JUDICIARY 

 

1. ESTATES DEPARTMENT OF THE JUDICIARY

In 2015, the Judiciary completed construction of Justice Centers at Ibanda, Mityana, Kiboga, Kibuku, Bulambuli and Judicial Studies Institute. Construction of the High Court at Kabale is almost complete except for installation of electricity and construction of an access road. Construction of the Family Court at Makindye, is almost complete. This year, we shall complete the construction of Justice Centers at Kiruhura, Nwoya, Buyende, and Mitooma. We shall also construct a High Court at Masindi and ten ramps to make our courts accessible to the disabled. The current High Court Building will get a facelift this year with a new roof. Tendering for re-roofing of the High Court Building is underway. The Justice Law and Order Sector is finalizing negotiations with the preferred bidder under JLOS House Project to construct the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal , Headquarters of the Judiciary and  the High Court in Kampala, under the public private partnership framework. I urge the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Finance to expedite the negotiations so that we can have these buildings.

 

2. INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY (ICT)

 

ICT holds the key for unlocking potential to increase performance and eliminate opportunistic corruption in the Judiciary. The Judiciary, therefore, is in the final stages of developing a 5-Year ICT Strategy estimated to cost UGX. 36 billion with an annual requirement of UShs.7.2 billion shillings. This strategy will position the Judiciary to 77% automation from the current 41%. H.E. the President promised to fund the ICT Strategy over a five years period. We shall follow up Government on this promise.

 

In 2015, the Judiciary installed Information Communication Technology systems to expedite court processes and ease court public access to the court. The Rules Committee has approved a Practice Direction on Audio Visual Evidence to provide for taking of evidence by audio and video link which we shall issue soon. This intervention will make it possible for courts to receive evidence by audio video link from witnesses who cannot physically appear in court due to infancy, old age, distance and cost among others.  In the case of children, the Judiciary, with support from UNICEF, has commenced installation of closed circuit cameras that are connected to TV Monitors in the High Court - Kampala, Gulu, Mbale and Fort Portal to receive evidence from children. Children who are victims of sexual gender based violence shall appear in court by video link to save them secondary victimization which they suffer when they physically appear in court to testify in full view of their alleged molesters. I would like to thank UNICEF for this timely offer, which, again is going to improve access to justice for children in Uganda.

 

2.1 WI-FI System

 

The Judiciary has installed WI-FI Systems in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court. Configuration of the System is on-going in order to provide the infrastructure to support a paperless Court Room.

 

2.2 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) System

 

The Judiciary is installing CCTV Systems in seven High Court Registries: - Civil, Anti-Corruption, Criminal, Execution and Bailiffs, Land, Family and Commercial and seven Chief Magistrates Court Registries at Entebbe, Makindye, Nabweru, Nakawa, Buganda Road, Mengo, and Law Development Centre Court. The System will be used to monitor our Court Registry procedures with a view of identifying areas for improvement.

 

2.3 Payments of Court Fees like Bail Fees using Mobile Money

 

In December 2015, the URA implemented the Mobile Money facility for payment of taxes in Uganda. The Judiciary is in consultation with URA to implement this service for payment of Court fees like Bail deposits. 

 

2.4 On-Line Filing System

 

The Judiciary has initiated the analysis and design of an on-line filing system (e-filing) of court documents and cases. When this is finally implemented, advocates will file cases from their chambers without coming to the Court.  This intervention will save time and eliminate unnecessary human contact that may result into unprofessional conduct from the involved parties. 

 

2.5 E-Judgment Tools Development

 

Software is being developed to assist in writing Judgments. The template will have fields where evidence is inserted and the system generates related selected authorities via internet facility to analyze and evaluate evidence in accordance with the applicable legal principles. Our IT team and the developer have done about 30% of the work on the software.

 

 

2.6 Real-Time Court Recording and Transcription

 

The Judiciary plans to introduce and convert the current Digital Court Recording and Transcription System to a Real-Time System to facilitate real time production of transcripts required for tasks like judgment writing. Real-Time Court Recording ensures a shorter case processing cycle throughout the court system thereby fighting case backlog. It is proposed to start with the Commercial Court and Appellate Courts before extending it to other Courts.

 

3 THE LAW REPORTING FUNCTION

 

3.1 Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII) Website

 

The Judiciary has continued to maintain an online web portal where it provides free legal information to the public. The information provided on this web portal includes inter alia, judgments/rulings from all courts of record of Uganda, Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments and bills. The website also provides decisions from CADER, the Tax Appeals Tribunal and the Industrial Court. I note that not many Judicial Officers and legal practitioners are using the website. I, therefore, urge you to actively use the site to enhance the quality of legal representation and judgments.

 

3.2 Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII) Samsung App

 

The Judiciary has developed a ULII App accessible by using Samsung phones and tablets. With the help of this facility appearing as an icon on ones’ Samsung mobile devices (phone, tablets), one can quickly access all judgments passed in the Uganda’ Courts of Record (Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court). 

 

3.3   Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII)Website e-Newsletter

 

Soon we shall be launching an online newsletter where we shall be highlighting precedential court decisions. This will be emailed to subscribing members free of charge. 

 

 

4 NATIONAL COURT CASE CENSUS 2015

 

In December 2015, I commissioned a taskforce to carry out a National Court Case Count to establish the number of cases in the Judiciary. 

 

The preliminary report of the case census shows that there are 114,512 cases pending in all the courts. As of December, there were 97 cases in the Supreme Court; 5,844 cases in the Court of Appeal; 35,548 cases in the High Court and 68,115 cases in the Magistrates Courts. We now know the exact number of cases in the courts and where most of the cases are located. With this information, we shall review our case backlog reduction programme focusing more on stemming the growth of case backlog as well as clearing the existing old cases. 

 

In the interim, I propose to issue a Practice Direction targeting the eradication of cases which are more than 2 years old.

 

5 SETTING OF PERFORMANCE TARGETS

 

The Judiciary has set targets for all Judicial Officers as part of an elaborate Performance Enhancement System to evaluate judicial officers including Judges by introducing modern methods of management. This system increases level of performance, monitors performance, and informs Best Performers’ Reward Committee for Meritocracy. The targets are:

 

Supreme Court                       80 cases

Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court     600  cases

High Court Judge                                      300  cases

Registrars                400  cases

Chief Magistrate                                        600  cases

Magistrate Grade 1 of more than

 

3 years’ standing                                      400 cases

 

New Magistrates  Grade I of less  than 3 years standing                                300 cases          

Magistrate Grade II                                                                                                 300 cases                

 

Judicial officers are hitting their targets except in appellate courts that did not have adequate Justices.

 

 

6 CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL TRAINING FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS

 

The Judiciary is promoting continuous training for judicial officers with mandatory Continuous legal education hours at the Judicial Studies Institute on areas that will better the administration of Justice.

 

The Judicial Studies Institute will be strengthened to provide continuous professional training to Judicial Officers to sharpen their skills and keep them abreast with new developments in the law. Each Judicial Officer will be required to attend a minimum number of hours of training in a year to keep them competitive, informed and well disposed to deliver first class justice.

 

7 STRENGTHENING OF THE INSPECTORATE

 

On the 24th December 2015, I issued a Practice Direction (Inspectorate of Courts) (Practice) Direction, 2015 to reorganize and strengthen the Inspectorate of Courts to promote good governance in the administration of justice. I have appointed Hon Justice Augustine Nshimye, JSC as Chief Inspector of Courts, to demonstrate the Judiciary’s seriousness to clean up all Courts and deal with complaints of misconduct or incompetency in a timely manner. 

 

The revamped Inspectorate of Courts will be responsible for promoting good governance, accountability and quality assurance in the Judiciary. It shall carry out its mandate mainly through inspections, investigations and outreach programmes. The new Inspectorate of Courts will inspect all Courts unlike in the past where only Magistrates were inspected.

 

8 MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY AND JUSTICE LAW AND ORDER SECTOR (JLOS)

As the Chair of the Leadership Committee of the Justice Law and Order Sector, I led a delegation last year in October to the USA to strengthen our relationships with Pepperdine University that will see JLOS institutions build capacity in various areas that will aid administration of Justice in Uganda. This relationship dates back from 2008 and provides for capacity building and information sharing in the areas of Plea Bargaining, Sentencing, mediation, short exchange programs and projects with prisons to support rehabilitation and reform of offenders.

 

 

THE NOTABLE CHALLENGES

 

Case backlog and allegation of corruption are our two most notable challenges that must be addressed urgently.  

 

1. CASE BACKLOG

Huge backlogs continued to dent the image of the Courts despite remarkable efforts by the Judges to clear many cases. This was caused by shortage of funds and systematic failures in the courts. Funding to the Judiciary was inadequate to pay for court room technology and sessions for the High Court, Court of Appeal and Chief Magistrates. The presence of an average of 40,000 prisoners per day in prisons and the long pretrial remand for capital offenders was very challenging considering that we could only afford to hold sessions for 1,800 prisoners out of 8,500 capital offenders waiting for trial in the High Court. 

 

The World Bank notes that:

 

“When Judiciaries carry a large backlog of cases (they) erode (e) individual property rights, stifle private sector growth, and, in some cases, even violate human rights. Delays affect both the fairness and efficiency of the judicial system; they impede the public’s access to the courts, which, in effect, weakens democracy, the rule of law and ability to enforce human rights.”

 

Back home, I want to share with you the experience of one Nigerian litigant, who would be in the same position like a typical litigant in Uganda (emphasize). He had this to say about the courts:

 

A common complaint against the Nigerian law courts is that justice is invariably expensive and tardy. Judges would be mistaken if they thought that this state of affairs was a good reflection of their work. The fault may not be theirs, but when the litigants see some judges and magistrates sit for very brief sessions before retiring …. It is difficult to blame them if they say that such judges and magistrates do not work hard enough. 

 

 

He goes on to say that: 

 

“If justice delayed is justice denied, all judges must show visible concern at the agony of litigants and in particular the inhuman treatment meted out to persons who are compelled to stay in prison for months on end even at time when the law presumes them to be innocent.” 

 

We recognize that delay of cases hurt everybody and the country at large. As Chief Justice, I will prioritize elimination of case backlog during my tenure.

 

We shall fight case backlog using a multi-disciplinary approach. It will involve change of attitude, reform of the law, greater use of technology, better training of Judges, Alternative Dispute Resolution and a paradigm change from the current system of justice steeped in bureaucracy, to a business oriented approach to resolving cases. Consequently, the Judiciary will adopt the following initiatives and reforms to improve the administration of justice in Uganda.

 

1.1 Increasing access points

 

From the available resources, the Judiciary will establish a High Court circuit at Mukono, Iganga, Mpigi, Rukungiri and Mubende to bring services to the people that have hitherto, endured long distances to access the High Court. The High Court circuit at Nakawa will be restructured and if need be, merged into existing Divisions of the High Court.

 

1.2 Increase of Magisterial Areas

 

Magisterial Areas are to be increased from 39 to 81 in a phased manner after the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs gazettes new magisterial areas. Pending the gazzeting, Magisterial Areas with a high case load such as Mengo, Nakawa, Lira, Gulu and Mpigi, will get a second Chief Magistrate. More Magistrates Grade I are to be recruited so that each County has a Magistrate. This intervention will address the phasing out of Magistrate Grade IIs, whose numbers have fallen from 403 to 49 as at 2015 and left most of the  Sub County Courts and the countryside without justice services. The law should be amended to give Local Council Courts power to handle most of the cases that were handled by Magistrates Grade II Courts. In this regard, Local Council Courts should be given power to handle land cases, civil cases of less than one million shillings and all matters of a customary nature. Criminal jurisdiction should, however, remain vested in the formal courts.

 

1.3 Court of Appeal to hold up country sessions

 

The Court of Appeal will hold sessions in Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu and Fort Portal to ease pressure on the court at Kampala. Resources, will be found to send Justices on regular upcountry sessions as the country moots the idea of building permanent premises for the Court of Appeal upcountry. I urge Government to increase Justices of Appeal from 15 to at least 32, to support the decentralization and circuiting of the Court of Appeal. 

 

 

FUNCTIONAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE TO BE PRIORITIZED

 

We recognize that resources are inelastic and that courts may have to innovate to provide more judicial services with available limited number of financial, human and other resources.  In this regards, the Judiciary shall invest resources and time in developing judicial products that deliver justice at the most competitive rates and stem the growth of case backlog. Some of these interventions will include the following:

 

1. Continuous sitting of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal

 

The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal that have hitherto sat using the session systems are considering changing the system in favour of continuous hearing of cases now that we have more Justices in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Civil cases, which do not require funds for state brief and elaborate service of court process, are to be benefit from the new changes.

 

2. Limiting Oral Arguments in Appellate Courts

 

The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal is considering a proposal to limit oral arguments in Court to save time and resources of the Court. If the proposal is implemented, counsel will be required to file appeals with written submissions including responses. Counsel will be given limited time to provide clarifications to Court during hearing of appeals. A remedy will be found for unrepresented litigants to present their appeals within the constrained timelines.

 

3. Elimination of Delivering Judgments on Notice

 

Delivery of judgments on notice encourages a culture of delayed judgments in the Courts. Consequently, the Judiciary is considering a proposal to severely curtail the practice. Court shall now be required to notify the date of the judgment to the parties immediately after the end of hearing a case. Delivery of judgment on notice should only be reserved in exceptional circumstances. 

 

4. Summary determination of applications

 

From the recent national court case census, we established that about 60% of the civil cases are applications. Most applications can be decided based on the evidence in the accompanying affidavits and skeleton legal arguments without hearing oral arguments from counsel. For example in  Hong Kong, where Courts have been given power to hear applications in a summary manner a Judge, can dispose of hundreds of applications in a single day. We can also use this method to clear applications which are causing backlog. Consequently, the Civil Procedure Rules are to be amended to give courts power to expeditiously decide applications without oral arguments except if the Justice of the case so requires.

 

5. Alternative Dispute Resolution

 

The Judiciary shall continue to roll out Alternative Dispute Resolution to expedite the resolution of cases.  We amended the Rules to make Alternative Dispute Resolution mandatory in civil cases. Plans are underway to extend Alternative Dispute Resolution to the Court of Appeal, where it has the potential of assisting the Court to reduce the huge number of pending cases. In this regard, I call upon advocates who are not very receptive to Alternative Dispute Resolution to embrace it because of the immense advantages it offers over the adversarial system of justice and its ability to shift the decisional power from the Judge to the parties and their counsel.  The rules of procedure are to be amended to provide for payment of costs in the most deserving cases of Alternative Dispute Resolution to fill an existing lacuna in the law. 

 

6. Plea Bargaining

 

In the last year , the Judiciary with support from Development Partners and the University of Pepperdine piloted plea bargaining in 11 Circuits of the High Court  as a cost effective measure to reduce case backlog of capital cases in the High Court. In the pilot period, the High Court disposed of 1,500 cases in a very short time. Users and beneficiaries of plea bargaining hailed it for being cheap with a high clearance rate of 95% per session. 

 

In 2016, the Judiciary shall continue to expand plea bargaining to all the circuits of the High Court and Magistrates Court to provide timely justice to offenders and reduce on pretrial remand for capital offenders, who do not have adequate protection like suspects whose cases are not yet scheduled for hearing. The Rules Committee has approved a Practice Direction on Plea Bargaining, that I shall issue soon.

 

7. Expansion of Small Claims Procedure

 

The Small claims procedure courts will be rolled out to all Magisterial Areas in 2016. The Small Claims Procedure is an innovation adopted by the Ugandan Judiciary to handle Civil Claims below ten million shillings. It was initially piloted in six Chief Magistrates’ Courts and has meanwhile been rolled out to twenty six Chief Magistrates’ Courts namely; Mengo, Makindye, Nabweru, Nakawa, Mbarara, Mbale, Masaka, Jinja, Lira, Kabale, Arua, Mukono, Nakasongola, Bushenyi, Entebbe, Luwero, Kitgum, Iganga, Fort Portal, Soroti, Masindi, Mpigi, Gulu, Busia, Kasese and Hoima. 

 

 

CORRUPTION IN THE JUDICIAL PROCESS

 

I am concerned about the persistent complaints of both real and perceived corruption in the courts. Complaints of corruption are rife in the lower courts. The High Court and appellate courts feature but with low frequencies. While most cases of corruption are unsubstantiated, I have said before that corruption has no place in the Judiciary because it short changes the vulnerable, perverts the cause of justice, perpetuates conflicts in society undermines civilized ways of resolving disputes and increases transaction costs for business. 

 

We in the Judiciary are determined to eradicate corruption in the chain of justice by opening up the judicial process and taking a zero tolerance policy towards the corrupt. I have since assuming office established hotlines on which the public can report cases of mal administration of justice. I have taken up complaints of corruption leveled against judges by investigating such complaints and taking action where necessary. I welcome any person who has a complaint of corruption against any judicial officer or court staff to report to me in confidence and investigations will start, first internally, and where necessary by the JSC. But at all times the officer accused must be given an opportunity to respond to allegations against him/her.  Even in the pursuit of the corrupt, we must never lose sight of the basic principles of fairness.

 

We shall continue to work with the Judicial Service Commission and the Inspectorate of Government with the active support of the public to rid the Judiciary of both perceived and real corruption. I encourage members of the public to cut off the supply side of corruption by stopping or rejecting giving bribes for services. Likewise, judicial officers and staff, who provide the demand side of corruption, are warned and informed that stern action will be taken against them.

 

Before I take leave of this matter, I wish to appeal to litigants, advocates and the public to refrain from making unsubstantiated and malicious complaints against judicial officers. Unfair complaints against judicial officers are a threat to judicial independence because some judicial officers may fear to make decisions against certain litigants or lawyers for fear of enlisting malicious complaints. Aggrieved parties should only make complaints where judicial officers have violated the Judicial Code of Conduct or abused office. Other complaints going to the merit of the decision, should be dealt with through appeals.

 

Appeal to Government

 

I urge the Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs and the Attorney General to fast track the tabling of the Administration of Justice Bill, which seeks to provide for the administration of the Judiciary, and the Legal Aid Bill, that makes provision for legal representation of the indigent. These two Bills should be fast tracked to improve efficiency in adjudication.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, 2016, will be a great year for the Judiciary as it endeavors to deliver justice to all.  It is a year that the Judiciary should apply:

 

“Business concepts of efficiency and project management to case processing, be reinforced by change of attitude and work methods for increased productivity in the Judiciary.

 

I thank you for listening to me.

 

It is now my pleasure to declare the New Law Year officially open.

 

For God and My Country!

 

 

 

Bart M Katureebe

CHIEF JUSTICE

 

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My Lord the Deputy Chief Justice
My Lord the Principal Judge
Honourable Ministers
Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court
Honourable Justices of the Court of Appeal
Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Ireland and Chairperson of JLOS Development Partners Group
Your Excellences, Heads of Diplomatic Missions to Uganda
The Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Public Service
Heads of JLOS Institutions
The Solicitor General and Chairperson JLOS Steering Committee
Members of the JLOS Steering and Technical Committees
Heads of Government Agencies and Departments
Partners and stakeholders from civil society
Invited guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


It is my honour to welcome you all to this 20th Joint Annual JLOS Government of Uganda - Development Partners Review. The review is an opportunity to once again take time to reflect on what we have achieved in the past year, and those tasks still ahead of us. I thank our partners for their continued support, in terms of the resources provided but also with regard to the partnership, engagement and joint implementation of projects.


I wish note however, that this was a challenging year where the share of the JLOS budget as a proportion of the national budget dropped by 19% from 6.7% to 5.4% and worse still, the development budget dropped by 45% from 0.4% to 0.22% as a share of the national budget. This budget performance notwithstanding, the Sector was able to achieve commendable performance in the financial year.
I thank the JLOS institutions for their continued service and efforts towards the progress that we have been able to register thus far. I take this opportunity to acknowledge those who we have lost, who have contributed to the growth and the successes we have achieved this year.


I recognise the late General Aronda Nyakairima, Minister of Internal Affairs and member of the Leadership Committee for his exemplary leadership in the reforms in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, and for ably guiding the National Identity Card project and the creation of the National Identity and Registration Authority. I wish also to recognise the late Joan Namazzi Kagezi, Senior Principal State Attorney for her tireless efforts in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism, war crimes and crimes against humanity and her commitment to justice for victims in situations of conflict. I also wish to recognise the late Paul Bogere, Commissioner for Local Council Courts in the Ministry of Local Government who was at the forefront of the project to strengthen and reform the operations of the Local Council Courts as bastions of justice at the grassroots. We salute them and all those who have departed in the year past.


I commend them and all the Sector institutions and staff for their efforts to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society, whether in the villages, in communities emerging from conflict or in the towns and cities where they remain vulnerable as a result of poverty or unemployment. As a Sector we acknowledge that vulnerability is a key obstacle to attaining justice for all and we endeavor to profile and target interventions that will alleviate the challenges that the poor and most vulnerable face in accessing justice.

 

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