The KRC Human Rights clinic was established to defend and promote the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized persons through offering legal knowledge and awareness, conducting mediations and counselling persons whose rights have been violated.
The principle of access to justice is enshrined in a number of international and regional instruments (which Uganda is party to) that seek to guarantee it as an inalienable right to Ugandans. The Ugandan Government has also introduced policy and domestic legislation that seeks to regulate and or promote access to justice for various groups or individuals. The legal and policy framework notwithstanding, a large section of the population remains vulnerable and marginalised and such groups of people struggle or fail to access justice.
In conformity with Human Rights standards set in international and domestic legal instruments, justice is the amount of fairness that people experience and perceive when they take steps to solve disputes and grievances.
Who then are the Poor, Vulnerable and Marginalized?
There are numerous groups and categories who can be considered as poor, vulnerable and marginalized. They include people with neglected and often misunderstood diseases (including the mentally ill, persons living with HIV/ AIDS and other such diseases in Uganda).
They also include Persons with Disabilities, the elderly, lonely and isolated, children, women especially those who have disabilities, refugees, employees and casual laborers, widows and widowers, orphans and abandoned children, the youth who are jobless, the internally displaced, refugees and those living in areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and landslides. These circumstances also deprive people adequate means to descent livelihoods in all measure.
In the quest to enhance access to Justice in Uganda, the Equal Opportunities Commission was established. Its mandate extends to groups marginalized on the basis of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, creed, religion, social or economic standing, political opinion, disability, gender, age or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom.
There are five main principles of social justice that are paramount to understanding and fostering of the Principle of Access to Justice, these are accessibility, equality, participation of the public, diversity, and human rights.
Access to justice is an essential ingredient of the rule of law. People need to be able to access the courts and legal processes or the law cannot enforce people's rights and responsibilities.
The challenges barring access to justice in Uganda include;
- Physical accessibility to legal or justice delivery agencies.
Accessing justice requires one to engage with the officials and institutions under the various justice/ legal systems. The poor, marginalized and vulnerable in most cases have to travel very long distances to reach and access the nearest justice institution such as the police and courts of law.
- Lack of confidence in the Justice system.
A common barrier to access to justice for the poor and vulnerable is lack of confidence in the justice delivery system as impartial and transparent. Individuals or groups who have been subjected to abuse, bias or discrimination are likely to be fearful of power structures and dynamics and suspicious of government agencies.
- The complexities of the Justice system.
The working language and technicalities involved in justice systems may prove a barrier to access to justice for the poor, who in many cases have no or little education.
- Ignorance of the Law and the structures or modes of conflict resolution.
Often the public is ignorant about the various laws and thus require a wide range of sensitization on the legal policies and the various structure In place to resolve i.e. Local council courts and or leaders, traditional leaders among others.
- The Cost of Justice.
The low levels of literacy, education and knowledge among the poor and vulnerable reduce fiscal capacity to enforce rights hence inaccessibility to justice.
What is KRC Uganda- human rights clinic doing?
The Human Rights Clinic offers legal knowledge and awareness, conducting mediations and counselling persons whose rights have been violated.
The Clinic is hosted on KRC FM Radio (102 FM) every Tuesday on a talk show dubbed “Engiga Ya Kana” (Chapter Four) starting at 8:00PM to 10:00PM. On this show, legal experts are invited to elaborate on more each of the Articles enshrined under Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as amended. Laws associated to each Article there under are discussed. Also discussed are the various modes of conflict resolution there are and their procedures.
The program is interactive where phone calls from the audience are received, asking questions in regard to the Article being discussed and Legal advice is rendered to the caller.
In addition, KRC Uganda has a toll-free line (0800133533) where individuals call and are received and calls referred to the Human Rights Clinic for Legal advice and resolution of legal issues.
To beat the challenge of case backlog, mitigate the cost of justice and the non-involvement of the public, the KRC Uganda Human Rights Clinic always fronts mediation as a mode of conflict resolution.
Case referrals are made to institutions where particular issues can be effectively handled and follow up to ensure that the client has been assisted.
Names used herein are not real names.
KRC Uganda Human Rights Clinic received a complaint from Kasenene V alleging that Ivan B unlawfully built his house on her land. That upon the death of Mutabazi the father to Kasenene V and five others, his property was distributed amongst his children and widow by the elders of the clan, demarcations where duly designated and an agreement thereto executed. Amongst the children who received land was Deusdedit M (RIP) a father to Ivan B. That when the father of Ivan B passed on Kasenene V brought Ivan B to stay in with his grandmother who was being taken care of by Kasenene V. That when the widow passed on, her property was also divided amongst the six children (including the late Deusdedit M whose share was given to his son Ivan B) and the house was given to Kasenene V since she had constructed it. That later when Ivan B was nineteen years, fully aware of his late father’s property and share, he built a semi-permanent house on the land of his then care taker (Kasenene V), he promised to demolish the house. He however kept upgrading the house despite the warnings from Kasenene for 14 years (and as per the time of reporting, the house was more of a permanent house).
When the Human Rights Clinic contacted him, he informed us that he was raised by Kasenene V and thus has every right over her property. He further added that his aunt Kasenene V is the one who told her to build on that site.
The clinic invited the parties for a medication meeting which was held on the disputed property. Among the invited people where the LC1, Lc2 and Lc3 chairpersons of the community, clan members, residents of the village among others. The KRC Uganda Legal Officer educated the parties about the law in regard to the various issues that arise from the facts and their resolution in the formal procedure with much emphasis and cutting the advantages of ending the matter at mediation
The attendees of the Mediation suggested various solutions to the challenge and finally settled for the most convenient solution. The attendees resolved that the house should not be demolished but rather that piece of land (land A) is given to Ivan B and a piece of land of the same measurement should be measured off the land (land B) that belonged to Ivan B (the share of his late father Deusdedit) and given to Kasenene V. The attendees also appreciated the fact that the land taken by Ivan B was of more value that the land being given to Kasenene (since it was close to the road) therefore they agreed that an extra 20% of land A should be added on Land B for matters of Justice. This resolution was unanimously welcomed and an agreement was executed and both parties signed.
KRC Uganda soldiers on in this mission to entrench justice for all, working tirelessly and diligently ensure that the poor, vulnerable and marginalized persons are able to access Justice.
This mission of KRC Uganda Human Rights Clinic is enormous, but limited in its capacity by inadequate outreach to more numbers of the poor due to limited human and financial resources. Resources are also needed to support institutional development of the clinic and capacity building in the area of strategic litigation, training, research, sensitization whose limited scale is a setback for the organization to foster Access to justice for all.