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JLOS Considering an Ombudsperson for Children

Justice Lameck Mukasa, Head of  the Criminal Division of the High Court (Middle) addressing a meeting with the visiting UNICEF Legal Advisory delegation from Norway on 16 January 2014 (PHOTO: JLOS Media) Justice Lameck Mukasa, Head of the Criminal Division of the High Court (Middle) addressing a meeting with the visiting UNICEF Legal Advisory delegation from Norway on 16 January 2014 (PHOTO: JLOS Media) JLOS Media

The Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) is considering the establishment of an Ombudsperson for Children. The Children Ombusperson will serve as a focal person and an independent entity that promotes the interests of children, ensures that the government complies with international and national provisions on children’s rights, advocates for children’s rights and creates awareness on children’s rights. This was revealed during a meeting between JLOS institutions, development partners and a UNICEF Legal Advisory delegation from Norway held at the Family Division of the High Court in Kampala on January 16, 2013.

The idea was articulated by Norwegian Ombusperson for Children, Dr. Anne Lindboe and her delegation (Mr. Knut Haanes – Deputy Ombudsman for Children Norway, and Ivar Stokkereit – Legal Advisory UNICEF Norway). JLOS institutions in attendance comprised the Head Criminal Division of the High Court, Ag. Head Family Division of the High Court and Lady Justices, Registrars Family Division of the High Court, Administrator General, First Parliamentary Counsel, Uganda Police Force Commissioner against Human Trafficking, Justice for Children project, and the JLOS Secretariat. Also in attendance was UNICEF which partners with JLOS in advocating for reforms in children justice.

The main issues for discussion included lessons learned from implementation by the Ombudsperson for Children in Norway, and the possibility of Uganda establishing an ombudsperson for children. JLOS institutions also shared their challenges in delivery of children justice in Uganda. Finally, the meeting established the way forward for Uganda concerning establishing an ombudsman for children. Dr. Lindboe informed the meeting that in exercising her independence, she visits children institutions unannounced and accesses government documentation involving children for advocacy. She stated that her office requires individuals without a political history. It was also indicated that the ombudsman in Norway is not necessarily a lawyer however; the office is supported by a legal team of three. She also said that the use of non-lawyers as ombudspersons creates room for a multidisciplinary approach in addressing children issues. She finally urged JLOS to consider establishing an ombudsperson for children’s rights in order to coordinately safeguard the rights of children.

Lady Justice Percy Tuhaise, the Ag. Head Family Division of the High Court, enlightened the Norwegian delegation on two issues facing the Family Division of the High Court. One is the absence of child rights activists during inter-country adoption processes in order for the welfare of children to be safeguarded. She stated that inter-country adoptions and guardianships are never contested in court yet sometimes the child’s welfare is at stake. Another challenge is the inadequacy in social inquiry reports and follow up of children adopted from Uganda. She noted that if we considered an ombudsperson for children, they would best advocate for the welfare principle of every child involved in an inter-country guardianship and adoption process.

In regard to juvenile justice, Justice Lameck Mukasa, the Head Criminal Division of the High Court, identified three major challenges affecting children: the growing crime rate involving children; limited follow up on child victims and their integration into the community; and general noncompliance with Schedules under the Children’s Act Cap 59. He welcomed the concept of an ombudsman for children rights and observed that it would help monitor children issues.

Mr. Gadenya Paul, the Senior Technical Advisor JLOS, welcomed the idea of establishing an ombudsperson for children in Uganda. He stated that children issues have not been seriously prioritised and highlighted the Children Act amendments which have taken five years in parliament. He finally underscored the need to create a focal person and consolidate children issues generated by the several children rights actors.

It was the consensus of the meeting that the establishment of an ombudsperson for children is explored. The judiciary pledged its readiness to work with that office when created. It was also proposed by UNICEF that a series of consultations are conducted to ascertain perceptions from other users including the children and civil society on the need for an ombudsperson for children. The meeting agreed that documentation on the best practices and limitations of the children ombudsman mechanism are shared for future deliberations in advancing the initiative.

The debriefing session with the Norwegian delegation was held on held on January 17 2013 at the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development with focus on generating the way forward following deliberations with government. Mr. Fred Onduri, the Commissioner in Charge of Youth and Children who chaired the meeting, recapitulated the discussions MoGLSD which comprised establishing an ombudsman for children rights. This contemplation was reiterated by UNICEF during their review of earlier visits to various government institutions by the Norwegian delegation.

In the way forward, the Deputy Ombudsperson, Mr. Hannes stated that Norway was willing to assist with the technical support, mutual visits, and study visits. UNICEF restated their commitment to facilitate the consultations. UNICEF further proposed the creation of a working group for the draft concept note so that the process can commence. It was agreed that the working group adopts a multidisciplinary approach to cater for all children concerns. In attendance was the entire Norwegian delegation, UNICEF, JLOS institutions (Judiciary, MoGLSD, and Uganda Human Rights Commission), and Child Fund.

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Published: January 18, 2014

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