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
The Government of Uganda and UNICEF earlier today launched a child-friendly justice handbook to guide prosecutors and other actors in the criminal justice system, in handling child-related cases in a child-friendly and gender responsive manner. The handbook is produced by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with technical and financial support from UNICEF as well as financial support from the Justice, Law and Order Sector. The UK government provided financial support to the process through UNICEF. The handbook will be used by prosecutors and other state as well as non-state actors and institutions in the criminal justice system.
“The handbook is an excellent guide in improving the delivery of justice to children, strengthening child protection structures and helping build a protective environment for children. It will subsequently lead to the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law,” says Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
According to the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Annual Report 2013, there were 1,256 juvenile offenders in the year 2011-12. In 2012, the Uganda Police Force arrested an average of six juveniles per 100,000 of the child population.
More often than not, prior to sentencing, child offenders are held with adults, due to lack of separate holding facilities at police stations, which increases the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. The conditions of detention are sometimes sub-standard, overcrowded and deny children their rights, such as the right to legal representation, parental access, and appropriate standards of health. Detention rarely results in the child’s reintegration and the child assuming a constructive role in society, which should be the objective of any justice intervention in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In addition, children’s cases are often processed through justice systems designed for adults that are not adapted to children’s rights and specific needs.
Source: www.dpp.go.ug | Published: April 27, 2016
In April 2016, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions launched the Handbook on ‘Prosecuting Child-Related Cases in Uganda’ with the support of UNICEF. The handbook clearly outlines the roles of prosecutors, police and other justice officials in responding to children who come in contact or in conflict with the law.
Following the launch, the DPP held trainings for police and prosecutors on child friendly justice in Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Masaka and Soroti. The trainings covered topics from the handbook, including the means of ensuring a child sensitive justice response through tailored interview techniques; the priority to find alternative measures to detention for children; specialised responses for survivors of sexual and gender based violence; and capacity development on the emerging area of online child protection.
On 17 and 18 May in Arua, 21 officers from the DPP and Uganda Police Force received the training. Highlights from the sessions included the importance of children’s cases being dismissed or processed through the courts within 3 months. This linked into discussion on the necessity to strengthen the practice of diversion, whereby children who commit petty offences can be released from custody, or redirected to counselling or community service.
On 19 and 20 May in Gulu, 16 officers from the DPP and UPF were trained. Notable discussions included the importance of medical examinations for survivors of sexual violence, and the need for sensitised coordination between all justice actors on children’s cases.
Overall, the trainings strengthened the abilities of DPP and UPF officers in the districts to respond to cases in line with the unique needs and best interests of children.
President Museveni has assented to the Children’s (Amendment) Bill 2015, which seeks to strengthen the protection of children’s rights and restrict legal guardianship of children to Ugandan citizens. The President assented to the Bill on May 20, two months after the Bill was passed by Parliament. The law amends the old Children Act, 1997 (cap 59), which focused on the basic needs of the child. The passing of the legislation followed a push for a watertight law to protect Uganda’s children being exposed to abuse and exploitation by those who take advantage of the gaps in the parent law.
The Act also provides for guardianship of children; prohibit corporal punishment and other related matters.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organisation which promotes children’s rights in Uganda, hailed the move as a milestone in promoting human rights. Uganda ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, committing itself to putting children first so that they grow, survive and reach their full potential. The Justice, Law and Order Sector with support from UNICEF is currently implementing the Justice for Children (J4C) Programme whose is aim is to strengthen the overall sector’s capacity to respond to the needs of children in the justice system
Clause 11 of Act offers clarity on guardianship. It introduces legal customary guardianship in which guardianship is only possible if there are no relatives willing to look after the child or if alternative care options have been exhausted; and is restricted to only Ugandans.
Non-Inter-country adoption will be a matter of last resort after other alternative care options have been exhausted and clarify on the offences of an administrator of the estate of a child to ensure that children’s property is not abused.
Published: June 2, 2016
What led to your interest in child protection work and working with UNICEF? How would you describe yourself and your role on the J4C program?
My background and interest in social work and human rights was in a way ingrained as I had completed my masters in Sociology and had been inspired by my two my teachers who were brilliant and incisive in encouraging students to go beyond the syllabi and get involved. I joined a study circle on women’s studies during my Masters and the discrimination of gender, social stratification and class made me conscious of my own relatively privileged background. My parents were also a strong influence with their values and learning, especially my mother who was a post graduate in Economics as early as 1935 when most women globally did not have equal opportunities!
I started working with fishermen communities and youth on survival issues along the coast of southern India strengthening community disaster preparedness including awareness on alternatives to pesticides which was poisoning the environment and driving the farmers to indebtedness and suicides.
I also saw that although women did most of the work in agriculture they were not recognized as farmers in their own right and had little or no access to credit. They were not paid minimum wages and were often discriminated although they did most of the same tasks as men did and if they were women from the lower castes in India they were socially discriminated and exploited.
I joined an organization that was empowering Dalit (the lowest caste in India) to upgrade their agricultural skills, be aware of their rights and speak up to participate in the development process.
I think this has been one of the high points in my life as I learnt so much from community women, their struggles to raise their families, cope with migration of husbands in search of work, wanting a better life for their children and balancing endless demands from the families who took all what they did for granted ..
It was amazing to see the solidarity emerge and as the women’s groups collectively took up dry land farming and negotiating for better conditions, access to bank credit, training and upgrading technical skills that helped them to evolve as managers and not just landless labourers by the system .. Seeing them emerge as confident women and address discrimination was the biggest learning experience for me…. .
Robert Chambers the pioneer of Participatory Rural appraisal (PRA ) as it was called then came to India and his first PRA was in one of the villages where we had started interventions.I met Robert Chambers at IDS UK after 20 years and we relived the excitement of that exercise!
At this point of time UNICEF had asked us to undertake a PRA on assessment of education needs for children and the social factors that governed learning including the child labour issue and the caste dimension. It seemed to make sense to then join UNICEF which offered a vision of the CRC and a canvas that was large enough to influence systems. I also had the advantage of knowing the impact of systems first hand at the actual user level and was able to advocate on the specifics that the system needed to change. In the meantime thanks to a recommendation by one of India’s leading jurists Justice Krishna Iyer I had a chance to go to the Institute of social Studies at the Hague and got a teaching certificate in Law social justice and Human rights. I also completed my post-graduation diploma in Human rights .
My work on child protection has spanned almost 23 years in UNICEF and working on having an integrated institutionalized approach to addressing issues than ad hoc solutions which were temporary and fizzled out once the funds ran out. Development of legislative standards, capacity building, budget provision, human resources planning, monitoring mechanisms are key to systems strengthening.
I was lucky to work with a great network of people across the country, people who shared knowledge information and put the issue above individual credit and focus….
UNICEF backed me completely although there were no tried and tested remedies at that point in time. .. The work on community based prevention of trafficking with coordination from police, courts, ministries of women and child development, income generation were held up as Best Practices internationally at the World Congress in Brazil.
My interest in child justice issues stemmed from the fact that while reviewing legislation on trafficking, child labour, children in detention across south and south east Asia the lack of child specific standards were a big challenge.. The critical component of child sensitive justice standards was missing and most people looked at children as ‘mini adults”.
The awareness on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the obligations to domesticate national legislation, the allocation of resources both human and financial were the key components that UNICEF focused on.
Coming to Uganda in April 2012 I was very excited and also impressed with the conceptual clarity on many child protection issues as well as the JLOS sector approach which is indeed a pioneering step well appreciated both in Africa and beyond .What was a challenge was the gap between conceptual clarity and implementation! The J4C intervention was launched by JLOS in partnership the Centre for justice studies and innovations in May 2012. I was lucky to have the privilege of seeing the programme evolve and integrate into the key institutions like judiciary, prosecution, police and probation which is indeed very satisfying!
When did you start working in Uganda and do you remember how your first week went? What past experiences supported or informed your work on child justice in Uganda?
My first week was very interesting and informative. I was at the Commonwealth Judges Conference which Uganda was hosting along with the Chief of Child Protection and UNICEF was asked to make a presentation on Justice For children. I recall working very hard on the presentation!! This was followed by my attending the JLOS Programme review at Munyono. I was feeling quite lost as I hardly knew anybody then. Little did I anticipate that I would leave Uganda as part of the JLOS family! My work with law enforcement, legislative standards coupled with a familiarity of how systems work as well as my training and background in Human Rights helped me to navigate the issues on Justice for children in Uganda relatively quickly as I had worked with governments in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka ) and partly in Thailand as a NGO and understood their strength as well as their complexity well . I also strongly believe that the best experience and knowledge is within the system. The only thing is we need to tap it !
What are the similarities and differences between Uganda and other contexts where you have worked?
Systems are pretty much similar, and Commonwealth countries have basically similar legislative and administrative structures. The biggest challenges across countries is to make the governments see the value in investing in children and child justice issues neither trivializing nor dramatizing them. Governments have many constituencies to answer to and making Children visible on their agenda is not always easy .Coordination among institutions, understanding that an integrated approach does not undermine individual institutions and actually optimizes results are the common thread across .
In Uganda I was impressed by the accessibility and the involvement decision makers whether at High court, Uganda Police, DPP, Gender-, JLOS Secretariat the openness with which we were able to discuss relatively sensitive issues of defilement, children in detention, backlog of cases, was very encouraging.
In your view what are the three main successes of the J4C programme?
It is difficult to really call anything a success so soon in terms of institution building! In my view the acceptance and integration of the Justice For children issue into the mainstream justice system is a good augury given the fact that Uganda now has almost 20 million children under 18 and it is good that we prepare to deal with this demographic within the justice sector. The issue of reform across the sector and its implications for children this was very exciting. The analysis and review of the work flow process led by JLOS was very challenging it had to have the individual institutions dealing with children in the justice process review, identify gaps and recommend changes which were then approved by the highest authority – the Chief Justice . This now becomes the basis for the costing of the child justice process leading to better planning and integrated way of working.
What are the upcoming challenges?
The challenge of children in remand, the process of developing diversion standards, bridging the gap between probation and courts by piloting innovations in Naguru Remand Home , the piloting of the victim and witness protection measures in four of the eight High Court circuits agreed to are very exciting and momentous changes that are in place . The joint training of CID/CFPU/DPP officers to address issues of VAC in a coordinated manner were some key milestones
The J4C coordinators and the catalyst action is increasingly being recognized as an important ingredient towards speedy disposal and preventing children from entering the formal justice sector.
Upcoming challenges include consolidation of the ongoing interventions, ensuring court practices become child friendly, separation of probation from welfare services to ensure qualitative rehabilitation and reintegration of children embracing technology and thinking out of the box to address systemic gaps than wait for lengthy administrative processes – why not have video links to review cases? Data management on children’s issues both civil and criminal issues (adoption, inheritance, gender issues), strengthening of family courts are very critical. Emerging issues like child online abuse need to be addressed
The links between informal and formal justice systems needs to be strengthened and need to formalize the Fit persons and Fit institutions aspects in the Child act are crucial.
Future Plans and parting thoughts
I am grateful that I had an opportunity to work with individuals and institutions who were very open and supportive and most importantly worked together with UNICEF as a team in making things better for children. With the commitment, ownership and vision provided so far by the JLOS sector I am confident that Uganda will continue to innovate and implement a very successful J4C programme.
Published: May 28, 2016 | Check out more JLOS exclusive interviews HERE
Justice for Children in Uganda
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 57% under 18 years old and 78% under the age of 30. Overall, children and youth in Uganda are at a distinct disadvantage in virtually all aspects of life – including education, nutrition, health and safety. 88% of children in Uganda enter the first year of primary school with no formal early learning experience, and while Universal Primary Education has brought a surge in enrollment, the quality of basic education in the country remains poor, learning outcomes are weak, and basic education programs lack relevance to the everyday realities that children face. Neonatal and Child mortality rates (29 per 1000 live births for newborns; 76 per 1000 for infants and 137 per 1000 for under-fives in 2011) remain high in Uganda and the country’s health indicators are also among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) towards girls in Uganda is still widespread. 60% of women have experienced violence and one in four women report that their first sexual intercourse was forced against their will.
Whether children come into contact with the law as victims, witnesses, offenders or complainants, it is equally important that they are met with a system that understands and respects both their rights and their unique vulnerability. This is the premise upon which the Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations (CJSI) is implementing the Youth Strengthening and Empowerment Program (YSEP) under the Justice for Children Program with support from Save the Children.
GULU - If you're below 18, the law in Uganda considers you a child and you are likely to receive lenience in case of an offence. If above 18, you are more likely to face the full force of the law. Now, whether out of ignorance or malice, many children particularly arrested from districts outside Gulu, are brought to the Gulu main prison with an age tag of above 18 for lack of holding facilities for children. The Justice for Children (J4C) review meeting held today in Gulu at the Bomah Hotel was informed that some of these are cases of repeat offenders whom their communities of origin are fed up of. In addition, age verification procedures are generally said to be ill conducted and therefore, unable to properly inform fair delivery of justice.
By Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
PADER - "Money is a necessary resource, but not a prerequisite in delivering justice for children" , says Valentine Namakula, the Executive Director Centre for Justice Studies and Innovation (CJSI). She made the remarks while addressing Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) partners at the Pader district court hall. From Kampala to Kabarole to Kyenjojo, Amuru to Gulu, Soroti to Buduuda, Moroto to Pader, the challenges surrounding child justice are similar and immense. According to Valentine, while waiting for funds to be secured, system actors must explore low cost alternatives to deliver justice. She sighted the fact that it does not require money for a police officer for example to divert a case of a child offender or a magistrate to prioritize children's cases.
Children constitute 52% of Uganda's population. Unfortunately, many of them survive in some of the most difficult circumstances, both while they live with their families and when they are out of a family set up living as orphans in homes and on the street. In order to provide an effective childcare system in the country, the Government of Uganda enacted the Children Act cap 59. The Act outlines rights of children and introduces schemes to take care of the needs of children whether in homes, those deprived of family support and care, as well as children who come in conflict with law. Such schemes include local council courts (LCCs), Family and Children Courts (FCCs) and approved homes.
Care and protection of children is recognized as basic to their survival and growth. For children found in the most vulnerable situations, a rights-based and child friendly approach is mandatory. This expectation stems from Uganda's international commitments by way of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and also as a constitutional guarantee.
II. Child Friendly Approach to Justice
A child friendly approach to justice for children implores us to rethink the way in which justice for children is handled. It requires a rethinking of measures taken in handling vulnerable children, those in need of care and protection and those in conflict with the law, by preparing duty bearers to administer justice differently. The ideal ethos is a system that is sensitive to, and adapts to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of children. It should recognize that children should be treated differently from adults and their best interests should be taken into account in all instances. These ideologies are well exemplified in the numerous international human rights instruments whose principles are well reflected in Uganda’s Children Act.
However, even as progressive as the Children Act is, implementation remains weak and almost invisible. The recent report on Uganda’s Universal Periodic Review submitted in 2011 details rampant violation of children’s rights including child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. The report notes the slow progress achieved in establishing a functioning system for protection of child victims of violence, abuse and juvenile justice throughout the country. This situation is coupled with the steadily increasing number of children in conflict with the law. Such children are likely to suffer poor conditions of pre-trial detention and lack of access to legal representation which increases their vulnerability
One of the biggest problems faced by children in contact with the law lies in the narrow understanding of different stakeholders regarding the jurisdiction of the law and their role in applying rights based approach. Additionally, actors working in the area of children’s justice are not adequately cognizant of the special needs and attributes of children and how to provide the best protection especially for those children in need of special care. Thus the call for this Training Manual.
III Using This Manual
This Manual is a Trainers' Guide aimed to strengthen the knowledge and skills of, and to encourage a rights-based attitude and understanding among duty bearers in the area of child justice. The Manual provides a child sensitive and friendly approach to providing justice to children in need. It uses both a theoretical and practical framework and draws upon various training techniques. An attempt has also been made to make it comprehensive and highly interactive.
It is arranged into the following Seven modules.
1. Preparing for a Training
2. Child Rights
3. Children in Need of Care and Protection
4. Children in Conflict with the Law
6. Roles of Key Duty Bearers
7. Child Friendly Approaches to Justice