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Wednesday, 30 November 2016 09:50

High Court Judges Transferred

 

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KAMPALA: High Court Judge, Wilson Masalu Musene, who has been head of Criminal Division has been transferred to the new High Court Circuit in Mpigi.

The Principal Judge, Dr Yorokamu Bamwine, in an Administrative Circular on November 29, also transferred Justice John Wilson Kwesiga as head of High Court Land Division to now head the Criminal Division.

Justice Dr. Andrew Bashaija who has been deputising Justice Kwesiga in the Land Division has now been elevated to head the Land Division.

“Further to my administrative circular No. 1 of 2016 and in consultation with the Hon. Chief Justice, adjustments are hereby made in staff deployments for more effective delivery of service,” Dr. Bamwine said in the Circular. 

“The re-deployments are with immediate effect, subject of course to the usual completion of all partly heard cases in advanced stage at the old station.”

The Circular further names Justice Godfrey Namundi the new deputy Head of the Land Division. Justice Elizabeth Kibula Kabanda, who has been caretaker judge of the Mpigi Circuit, returns to the Criminal and Family Divisions of the High Court.

“The Secretary to the Judiciary and the Registrar High Court are by copy hereof requested to note the re-deployments and facilitate easy and smooth movements of the affected staff,” said the Principal Judge in the Circular.

Mpigi is one of the recent High Court Circuit creations, together with Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Tororo, Rukungiri, Hoima, and Luwero, in addition to the existing Circuits of Jinja, Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Gulu, Arua, Masindi, Fort Portal, Mbarara, Kabale and Masaka.

The High Court operates in Kampala through High Court Divisions namely: Criminal, Civil, Land, Commercial, Family, Anti-Corruption, International Crimes, and the Executions and Bailiffs.

 

Published: November 30 2016

Published in Latest News

 

MUNYONYO - The Prime Minister, Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda on November 1 2016 opened the 13th East African Magistrates and Judges Conference (EAMJA) at Speke Resort Munyonyo. This conference is being hosted by the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA) under the auspices of the Judiciary in partnership with the Justice, Law and Order Sector. The three day conference is running under the theme: "Transformation of Judiciaries in East Africa for Improved Service Delivery". Delegates from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Lesotho, Zanzibar and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) are in attendance.

 

[Below is a full transcript of Hon. Rugunda's speech:]

 

My Lord the Chief Justice of Uganda,

My Lords the visiting Chief Justices,

My Lord the Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda,

My Lord the Principal Judge of Uganda,

My Lords the Justices and Judges present,

The President of the East African Magistrates and Judges Association,

Your Worships,

Invited Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is my pleasure and joy to be with you on this auspicious occasion and welcome you to this important conference of East African Magistrates’ and Judges’ Conference. To our visitors from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, South Africa and the United Kingdom, I say Karibuni to the pearl of Africa.

I congratulate the Chief Justice of Uganda, the Ugandan Judiciary and the people of Uganda at large, for once again hosting the East African Magistrates’ and Judges’ Conference. I am especially gratified to see that the Judiciaries of East Africa are doing their part in fostering linkages and partnerships amongst themselves in the true spirit of regional integration. 

My Lords, ladies and Gentlemen, your theme of Transformation of Judiciaries in East Africa for Improved Service Delivery: Successes, Challenges and Strategies, is well suited to not only mentally transform East African judicial system, but also to firmly put our justice system in the centre of service delivery for our people. Challenges notwithstanding, we will continue to leverage on the recent innovations in ICT to expeditiously dispense justice to all the parties concerned.

Today as you seek to share experiences toward inching further up the road to transformation, let me share a few thoughts to bear in mind as you continue your deliberations.

Trade is the cornerstone of regional integration. Intra East African Trade has significantly increased since the coming into force of the Treaty re-establishing the East African Community in 2000. The East African Common Market Protocol seeks to remove barriers to trade by providing the legislative environment for the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services in the region. Judiciaries of partner states are charged with the responsibility of implementation of the law. The question may arise as to when exactly this responsibility begins? 

Courts therefore, must endeavour to clear all the business before them promptly and in a business manner because any delay in the administration of justice holds the pace of integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it cannot be over emphasised that the Judiciary is indispensable in the transformation of society. As experience demonstrates, an excellent Judiciary is fundamental to democracy. In the recent past, the Judiciaries in the region have in record time, dealt with election petitions arising out of Presidential or Parliamentary Elections, demonstrating that there is a civilised way of handling disputes instead of taking up unconstitutional means to change Governments. 

Drawing from history again, the Judiciary has been at the centre of correcting century long injustices against humanity. Slavery was brought to its knees by courts. It is the Judiciary that came out strongly to protect the women, giving effect to equality of men and women. It is the Judiciary that dealt a blow to discrimination based on colour and race. The Judiciary has also been central to the development debate by ensuring that trade prospers in a climate of justice and full enjoyment of fundamental rights.

In this regard, therefore, Judiciary will be an integral factor in steering Uganda from a peasant society to a progressive and middle-income status by 2020.  Government is looking at the Judiciary to maintain stability and peace necessary for economic growth.  It is, therefore, a fact of life, that investing in Judiciaries is no longer a luxury but a necessary prerequisite for the transformation of individual partner states, and the region.

In this regard, we also salute you for embracing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and the campaign against case backlog.

In spite of these glowing achievements, the pace of transformation in our Judiciaries remains work in progress. If we want to transform the Judiciary, we must pay attention to increasing public confidence, trust and satisfaction in the administration of justice.  Judiciaries must focus on cultivating judicial independence, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of service, and opening up courts to the poor and vulnerable, who feel excluded from the judicial process. Case backlog and delay of cases should be addressed urgently through timely disposal of cases and expanded capacity of specialized courts to deal with increasing number of cases.

Rules of Procedure, Court processes and policies should be structured around enabling the least served segments of the population to access court services, just like the privileged. Concierge services at the court, with fully staffed customer care staff points, should be employed to ease access, and make courtroom user experience memorable for all court users.

Corruption in our court systems must be addressed through bold and comprehensive interventions.  We should avoid cosmetic solutions by embracing revolutionary methods that address corruption from its roots. 

Automating judicial services must take centre stage in the modernisation and enhancement of service delivery.  Use of real time court recording systems, video conferencing and electronic presentation of evidence can greatly curtail the time trials take place in court as well as cutting out opportunistic corruption arising out of artificial delays. Let me however; caution you that automating justice is not a panacea for reform because machines depend on people and people using them.

Government also salutes legal aid service providers who labour to make free legal services available to the most vulnerable to enable them access our legal systems.  Investing in legal aid is a versatile weapon that Governments in the region can deploy to assist the poor and vulnerable persons to meaningfully access justice. As experience has shown elsewhere, offering a comprehensive legal aid not only reduces corruption and case backlog, but also produces better outcomes for the administration of justice.

Finally, transformation is nothing without the right people within the Judiciaries with the positive attitude towards administration of justice.  Public confidence in the Judiciary is largely determined by how the users of Judiciaries are treated during the course of seeking judicial redress. A Judiciary may be comprised of first class ICT systems, modern buildings, and adequate stationery, but if its human resource is apathetic, lazy, and corrupt, transformation will be impossible to achieve. 

Sufficient time and resources in the form of skill development, periodic performance enhancement, and suitable salaries should be invested in the staff to create a workforce that shall appropriately drive the vision for transformation to its logical conclusion.

With these remarks, it is my honour and pleasure to officially open the East African Magistrates and Judges Conference.

 

I thank you.

 

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda

PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA 

Published in Latest News

 

The Justice, Law and Order Sector on October 27 2016 held the 2016 edition of the JLOS Recognition Awards during the 21st Annual JLOS Review conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo. The Chief Justice presided over the ceremony.

Below is a list of recipients for the 2016 JLOS Recognition Awards.

 

THE JLOS EXCELLENCE AND QUALITY AWARD 

 

Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB)

URSB has excelled in streamlining business registration processes through an on-line business name application solution installed to facilitate online name search and business name reservations.  Services such as name search, reservations and assessment of fees payable can now be processed in one day – an unprecedented achievement in Uganda. URSB’s excellence in service delivery is pivotal to Uganda’s improving ratings in global competitiveness and has significantly contributed to the doing business environment and improved the country’s prospects as a viable investment destination. 

 

THE JLOS INNOVATION AWARD 

 

Judiciary 

The Judiciary has been at the forefront of justice innovations over the years. The Judiciary recently launched the Audio-Visual Link project that makes it possible for courts to receive evidence by audio video link from witnesses who cannot appear in court due to infancy, old age, distance and costs. This technology innovation is an effective and cost effective enabler of access to justice for the vulnerable – a signature outcome of the JLOS Third Strategic Investment Plan.

 

THE JLOS CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD 

 

Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) 

URSB’s accomplishments in the area of customer service excellence exemplified by the recent establishment of a fully functioning call center and vibrant social media platforms, distinguish URSB's commitment to excellent customer service pivotal to Access to Justice. URSB continues to creatively engage with its clientele through people-oriented services that have transformed the Bureau into a key player and benchmark in efficient and effective service delivery.

 

Uganda Prisons Service

Uganda Prisons’ customer care approach evident in prison facilities across the country has positively changed the image of the Prisons service. 

 

THE JLOS HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER AWARD 

 

MR. Anatoli Muleterwa 

Mr. Anatoli Muletwerwa is champion of human rights awareness in the Uganda Police through sensitization of the public using various media platforms. His pro-people approach has earned him the nickname “omulwani w’dembe ryabantu (high rights defender)” from a popular radio talkshow “Police nomuntu wabuligyo”

ASP Muleterwa is a member of the Paralegal Services and head of community policing, Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP).

 

THE JLOS MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

 

National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA)

For the unprecedented and successful implementation of the National Identification Project.

 

THE JLOS PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND MEDIA RELATIONS AWARD 

 

Judiciary

The Judiciary has over the last financial year carried out extensive public sensitization campaigns across the country through barazas, radio talkshows and open days on issues of plea-bargaining, Small claims procedures and other access to Justice issues. The Judiciary has during these sensitization campaigns partnered with other JLOS institutions as a demonstration of the sector-wide approach to access to justice.   Efforts of the Judiciary to reach out to the public are yielding fruits in positively changing negative perceptions about the Judiciary in the public domain.

 

THE JLOS MEDIA REPORTING AWARD 

 

MR. Anthony Wesaka  

Anthony Wesaka is a journalist with the Daily Monitor who specializes in reporting on justice, law and order issues. Mr. Wesaka has for the last eight years consistently and objectively covered groundbreaking news and feature stories in many JLOS institutions.

 

THE JLOS PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION AWARD 

 

Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network (LASPNET)

LASPNET has constructively and consistently engaged with the Sector on issues of access to justice especially regarding advocacy on the Legal Aid Policy.  

 

 

THE JLOS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

 

Lady Justice Leticia Kikonyogo

As a former Deputy Chief Justice Justice and Head of the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Leticia Kikonyogo served the country and the Judiciary diligently in a glittering career spanning decades. 

 

Dr. S.P Kagoda 

Having diligently and faithfully served in as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr. S.P Kagoda has tremendously contributed to growth of the Justice, Law and Order Sector for more than a decade as a member of the JLOS Steering Committee. He has also been part of the peace process for Northern Uganda and as permanent secretary he led the multi-sectoral team to successfully implement the National ID project – a an unprecedented groundbreaking achievement for Uganda.

 

Mr. Tommy Ochen (RIP)

As a former Director of Correctional Services, Uganda Prisons who was instrumental in the award winning Prisons Rehabilitation Programme that continues to transform the lives of many prisoners across the country. Mr. Ochen’s selfless and dedicated service as a member of the JLOS Technical Committee was instrumental in shaping the policy and strategy of the Sector.

Though he is departed and no longer with us, the Justice, Law and Order celebrates his contribution and is proud to honor his honorable legacy.

 

Hon. Fredrick Ruhindi 

Having served in the Sector in various capacities – State Attorney (1981-1992); Deputy Attorney General and Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs (2006-2015) and Attorney General (2015 – 2016), Hon. Fredrick Ruhindi was instrumental in shaping Uganda’s justice, law and order landscape both from a technical, professional and political perspective. For his contribution, leadership and inspiration during the formative early years of the Sector, Hon. Ruhindi’s legacy lives on – through the big strides made by the Country and the Sector in the rule of law and administration of justice during his 35 years of diligent, people oriented and dedicated service.

 

For more information and inquiries on the JLOS Recognition Awards, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Latest News

 

KAMPALA - The Judiciary has launched the audio visual guidelines at the High Court in Kampala. The intervention will make it possible for courts to receive evidence by audio video link from witnesses who cannot appear in court due to infancy, old age, distance and costs.

The Rules Committee has already approved a Practice Direction on Audio Visual Evidence to provide for taking of evidence by audio and video link which will be issued today.

Currently, the Judiciary with support from UNICEF is installing Closed Circuit Cameras that are connected to TV Monitors in the High Courts of Kampala, Gulu, Mbale and Fort Portal, to receive evidence from children.

According to the Honourable the Chief Justice, children who are victims of sexual and gender based violence shall appear in court by video link to save them from secondary victimization, which they suffer when they physically appear in court to testify in full view of their molesters.

 

By Lucy Ladira | Published: August 19, 2016

Published in Latest News

 

This statement made by the Registry, ICD is to notify and update the public and concerned stakeholders of the activities of the ICD surrounding the trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo.

 

1.  The ICD has had an overwhelming response from the International community following the last statement. The ICD will look to continue its current momentum in order to bring justice to those who have not yet received it.

2.  The Registry, ICD Outreach team traveled to Gulu on the 28/07/15 with the aim of establishing a dialogue with invested parties in the community.

3. The Outreach team met with the outgoing judge in Gulu Hon. Lady Justice Margaret Mutonyi who has been serving at Gulu High Court for the last 3years.

 

4. The outreach team discussed the problems that Gulu and Northern Uganda currently face as a result of the conflict with Judge Mutonyi. Judge Mutonyi stressed the need to address the high rate of juvenile crime in Gulu. Most of the current perpetrators of juvenile crime in Gulu are children who are direct or indirect victims of the LRA war.

 

5. The Registry, ICD has established an information desk in Gulu specifically for the Kwoyelo trial. The desk is the point of contact for the ICD in Gulu. The aim of this desk is to provide accurate and timely information to the Gulu community and trial participants.

 

6. Anyone who wishes to access the services of the ICD Gulu desk should proceed to the library in the High Court of Gulu or contact the desk via: email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by Telephone on : +256753620520

 

7. The outreach team made contact with the Refugee Law Project in Gulu who is working closely with the victims.

 

8. The ICD will be working closely with the Refugee Law Project throughout the Kwoyelo trial in order to provide the required support to victims.

 

9. The ICD recognizes the commendable work that the Refugee Law Project is doing in Northern Uganda.

 

10. The outreach team also travelled to Kitgum to gain an appreciation of the social landscape and the needs of the local community who were among those who suffered most from the conflict.

 

11. The Refugee Law Project has set up the National Memory and Peace Documentation Center in Kitgum which documents the timeline and events of the conflict in Northern Uganda. The ICD appreciates this effort, as remembrance and recognition is a crucial part of reconciliation.

 

12. The ICD Outreach team will travel to Gulu again in preparation for the pre-trial which is scheduled for the 15/08/16.

 

Any organisation interested in working with the High Court of Gulu and the ICD in the area of juvenile crime in Gulu should contact the registrar, ICD.

 

Issued on: August 2, 2016

 

Published in Latest News

This statement made by the International War Crimes Division (ICD) Registry is to notify the public and concerned stakeholders of the activities of the ICD surrounding the trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo.

 

1.      The Supreme Court of Uganda ruled on the 08/05/2015 that the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo was constitutional and should continue. The Supreme Court concluded that the Amnesty Act does not grant blanket amnesty to all crimes committed during the rebellion, but only grants amnesty to crimes of a war-like nature (attached is the supreme court judgment).

 

2.      The ICD expects the pre-trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo to take place on the 15/08/2016 in Gulu and the trial to take place during October of 2016.

 

3.      Since the decision to continue the trial, the ICD Registry has been conducting outreach programs throughout the Gulu region. The ICD Registry in partnership with the Ugandan Law society and Refugee Law Project is focusing their efforts on engaging with the victims and witnesses (V/W) in order to explain why the trial should take place and what the V/Ws should expect from the process.

 

4.      The ICD rules of procedure and evidence provide for the Ugandan government to offer reparation or compensation to qualifying V/Ws should the trial produce a conviction.

 

 

 

5.      The ICD has therefore appointed Counsel for Victims who have been calling for V/Ws to come forward and participate in the trial so as to be included on the victim index which index will be referred to during the reparation exercise.

 

 

6.      The ICD is currently moving to implement a V/W desk at the court in Gulu in order to centralize information for those concerned and to provide a point of contact for V/Ws.

 

 

7.      The ICD is investigating the possible use of local radio stations to broadcast important information surrounding the trial to the communities. It is the hope of the ICD that this measure will reduce confusion and demonstrate to the community that the trial is proceeding.

 

 

8.      The ICD has heard from a number of V/Ws that they have evidence of UPDF soldiers committing atrocities during the conflict. As a result, the ICD has made it clear that if credible evidence was brought against UPDF soldiers or commanders the case would be referred to the UPDF who have proven that they will court martial those who have committed crimes.

 

 

9.      The ICD is working alongside invested NGOs in the Gulu region to provide the best service to those who have been affected. The ICD invites interested NGOs to submit requests for further information.

 

 

 

10.  The ICD invites invested NGOs to explore the possibility of establishing themselves or returning to the Gulu region.

 

 

11.  The ICD wishes to work alongside NGOs in order to provide the highest level of care and support to those who have been affected by these alleged crimes and to assist with the reconciliation process that this trial is likely to bring about.

 

 

 

Registrar, International Crimes Division

 

July 26, 2016

 

 

Published in Latest News
Monday, 09 May 2016 08:05

Seven new judges sworn in

 

President Yoweri Museveni has today presided over the swearing in ceremony of 7 new judges at State House Entebbe. The new judges are: Justices Ketrah Kitariisibwa Katunguka, Moses Kazibwe Kawumi, Bitature Mugenyi Anna, Oyuko Anthony Ojok, Stephen Mubiru, Suzan Okalany and Dr. Flavian Zeija

President Yoweri Museveni described the process that has seen the power of the judiciary restored as 'a journey that started in 1986 and whose future is growing very bright'.  "There was a time, justices were an endangered species. In fact one was killed and the other went to deliver judgment of a case he was handling in Nairobi. Am happy to be associated with reviving the rule of law and restoring the power of the Judiciary," he said.

H.E The President congratulated the judges and implored them to solve the needs of the people. "The needs of your people to solve are multiple. There are those that can be solved and those that cant. Am here in my capacity as a freedom fighter, a repeatedly elected President and a political leader. I have tried to solve the needs of peace, making sure there is no war. The other, which I share with you, is law and order. I work with the police and the courts of law. There is poverty, jobs creation and justice. That is where you need to help our people. Intensify old methods in the constitution and also handle new ways to solve problems," he said.

Responding to the need for more judges to tackle the case backlogs in the judiciary, the President called upon the judges to prioritize urgent cases. He cited the commercial court where cases of land or buildings take longer to handle and yet their value keeps going up affecting the cases.

The swearing in of the 07 new judges now brings the total number of judges in Uganda to 50. Last September President Museveni elevated 11 judges and appointed a new one to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

  

By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: May 9, 2016

Published in Latest News

 

In 2006, The Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army commenced peace talks to end the conflict in Northern Uganda. In June 2007, the GoU and the LRA signed an, annexure to the final peace Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation, which required the Government to establish both formal and non-formal justice mechanisms to address accountability and reparations for atrocities committed in Northern Uganda.

In line with the Juba Peace Agreement calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms for crimes perpetrated during the conflict, the Government of Uganda established the War Crimes Division in 2008, now the International Crimes Division of the High Court, to try individuals suspected of committing war crimes in the country.

 

What is the International Crimes Division?

The ICD is a special division of the High Court, a national Court established in 2008, under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.  Originally, it was called the War Crimes Division. The International Crimes Division is not an international court. The ICD is not the International Criminal Court (ICC), or a branch of the International Criminal Court.

 

Where is the International Crimes Division located?

The headquarters is in Kampala, at Plot 8 Mabua Road, Kololo. The court may also sit in any other place in Uganda as the Chief Justice and the Principal Judge may decide.  

 

What kind of crimes will the International Crimes Division handle?  

The International Crimes Division deals jurisdiction over serious international crimes  as prescribed in  the Practice Directions of the ICD (Legal Notice No. 10 of 2011, gazetted 31 May 2011) these include; any offence relating to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, and any other crimes as prescribed by Law.

What laws can be applied by the International Crimes Division? 

The ICD shall apply the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Geneva Conventions Act of 1964, the Penal Code Act Cap 120, and the International Criminal Court Act of 2010, governing international crimes, and any other relevant law. 

 

How many judges are there in the International Crimes Division? 

There are five Judges appointed to the ICD. They sit in a panel of three Judges at the war crimes proceedings. There is a Head of the Division and Deputy Head of Division. 

 

Which institution is responsible for bringing charges before the International Crimes Division? 

The Director of Public Prosecutions, on behalf of the people of Uganda, according to the Constitution of Uganda (Art. 120(3), of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda)

 The functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are the following—

(a) to direct the police to investigate any information of a criminal nature and to report to him or her expeditiously;

(b) to institute criminal proceedings against any person or authority in any court with competent jurisdiction other than a court martial;

(c) to take over and continue any criminal proceedings instituted by any other person or authority;

(d) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered, any criminal proceedings to which this article relates, instituted by himself or herself or any other person or authority; except that the Director of Public Prosecutions shall not discontinue any proceedings commenced by another person or authority except with the consent of the court.

 

What is the lifespan of the International Crimes Division?  

It is a permanent division of the High Court of Uganda.

 

Is the International Crimes Division the same as the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

No. The International Crimes Division is a Division of the High Court of Uganda. The ICC is an International Court, based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The two courts complement each other. 

 

What is the International Criminal Court? 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international court that handles cases dealing with serious international crimes, specifically the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002. Uganda ratified and domesticated the Rome Statute in June 2010 by enacting the International Criminal Court Act 2010, meaning that it is obliged to respect the obligations in this treaty. Specifically, Uganda has the duty to prosecute the listed crimes where they are committed in its territory. If Uganda is unable or unwilling to do so, the International Criminal Court may bring charges against offenders of such crimes, especially when the offenses were committed in Uganda after 2002.

For more information about the International Criminal Court, see www.icc-cpi.int

 

What is the maximum punishment for a war crimes case?

The maximum penalty under the Geneva Conventions Act is life imprisonment for grave breaches of wilful killing. 

 

What are grave breaches under the Geneva Conventions Act? 

‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions are serious crimes committed in the context of an armed conflict. ‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions is a term used to denote the seriousness of the offenses. The Geneva conventions defines grave breaches as crimes: “involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.  ‘Grave breaches’ constitute war crimes, which are also prohibited under the Rome Statute of the ICC.

 

What is the role of the International Crimes Division?  

The role of the International Crimes Division is to hear the evidence presented by the Prosecution and any case presented by the Defence to raise serious doubt about the Prosecution case, and then to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. 

 

What is the role of the registry of the International Crimes Division?

The registry provides administrative support to the International Crimes Division and coordinates all aspects of the trial. The Registrar heads the registry.

 

What is the role of Prosecutors?

Prosecutors guide the police in investigating a crime. If Prosecutors think there is sufficient evidence to prove that someone committed a crime, they institute a criminal case in a court. At trial, Prosecutors try to convince Judges that the accused committed the crimes. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  

 

What is the role of the CID(Criminal Investigations Department)

The CID investigates the cases, summon witnesses at the hearing stage, produce exhibits in Court, and Testify as investigators in the case. 

 

What is the role of the Defence?

The Defence speaks on behalf of the accused. They also try to convince the Judges that the accused did not commit the crimes and help ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.

 

What is the role of the Prisons Service?

The prisons service detains the accused in legally recognised places of detention, in good conditions and in accordance with accepted standards. The prisons produce the accused before courts as and when required. On acquittal, the prisons release the accused and on conviction, the prisons undertake to rehabilitate the accused. 

 

Will the prosecution and defence witnesses be protected? 

Yes. Measures are in place to ensure the safety of witnesses.

 

What kind of protection measures can be provided to witnesses? 

Protection measures that exist include; physical protection, internal relocation, external relocation, change of witness contacts. Other include protection of the witness’ identity, including withholding names from the press, shielding witnesses’ faces during testimony, and presenting sensitive testimony in closed court sessions. These measures can apply before, during, and after the trial. 

 

What remedies are available to victims at the end of a trial? 

Upon conviction of an accused, courts may order the accused to pay compensation or provide other remedies to victims. According to Article 50 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Any person, who claims that a fundamental or other right or freedom guaranteed under this Constitution has been infringed or threatened, is entitled to apply to a competent court for redress which may include compensation.

 

What kinds of evidence can be used by the Prosecution and Defence in criminal trials?

Evidence can include:

  • Testimony of witnesses in court
  • Written documents
  • Video recordings
  • Scientific reports and forensic evidence
  • Post mortem reports
  • Photographs
  • Clinical notes 

 

Who can be a witness in criminal trials?

Any Person who has information relevant to the trial. 

 

How can victims participate in criminal trials?

Current practice in Uganda is that victims can participate as witnesses if called by the Prosecution or defense to help the court decide whether the accused is guilty or not. Victims can also attend the hearings as members of the public. 

 

Can decisions of the International Crimes Division be appealed? 

Yes, to the Court of Appeal. 

 

How long do war-crimes trials last?  

Depending on how complex the case is and how many witnesses will testify, war crimes trials can take many months to conclude. There is no time limit; however, trials must be conducted without undue delay. 

 

Where can I get more information about the Kwoyelo case and the International Crimes Division?

One can get information from the JLOS website at www.jlos.go.ug or the Judiciary Website at www.judicature.go.ug  

 

What is the contact information of the International Crimes Division?

Please contact the ICD at www.judicature.go.ug

 

What role do NGOs, cultural leaders and other civil-society groups play in war-crimes cases at the International Crimes Division?  

They can play different roles. Examples include the dissemination of information about  the case, appearing as witnesses if called by one of the parties or the court, and Supporting victims and witnesses. They are also partners and stakeholders in the  administration of Justice. 

 

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ICD Frequently Asked Questions

ICD Brochure

Frequently Asked Questions on the Thomas Kwoyelo Trial

 

Published in Transitional Justice

 

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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