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UNFPA supports Special Courts to facilitate clearance of GBV case backlog

Kampala – Uganda: In recognition of the need for accessible, quicker and a human rights based approach to justice, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is supporting the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) in Uganda to implement Special Court sessions as a means of clearing the backlog of gender-based violence (GBV) cases before end of 2018.  

According to the Principal Judge Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine, the period of time a case takes to be resolved is a very critical component of accesses to justice for survivors of gender-based violence.

“Just imagine, if a girl has been defiled and the case takes five years, she might be an adult by then and might not be able to talk about the incident,” said Justice Bamwine.

At a high level meeting between JLOS officials and UNFPA that took place at the High Court in Kampala on 18th October, it was announced that over 1,000 cases would be handled during 13 Special Court Sessions that will take place in 13 districts across Uganda. It is envisaged that each court will handle between 50 and 100 cases within a period of 40 days, between November and December 15, 2018.

A woman reporting a GBV case to Police in Moroto district. The 
Special Courts will ensure cases such as these are heard in time. 

To ensure nationwide regional coverage, selected courts will include the High Court Criminal Division in Kampala, the High Court Circuits of Mukono, Mbale, Soroti, Moroto, Gulu, Masaka and Bushenyi; as well as Chief Magistrate Courts of Nabweru, Iganga, Lira, Sironko and Kapchworwa.

Commenting on the preparedness of JLOS for the process, Justice Paul Gadenya, the Project Coordinator said that all files have been prepared and all stakeholders including the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Police, Prisons, the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory (DGAL), and the judges have been communicated to.

Mr. Alain Sibenaler, the UNFPA Representative commended JLOS for this intervention to bring justice closer to the people, even those in hard to reach areas and committed continuous support: “UNFPA will continue to work with the JLOS and other stakeholders towards the strengthening of GBV prevention and response mechanisms, including access to justice,” said Mr. Sibenaler.

The Special Courts Sessions will commence with a one-day training of all service providers to strengthen their skills in addressing the specialized needs of GBV survivors, putting into consideration the human rights based and survivor centered approach, thereby facilitating their healing and recovery process.

Justice Bamwine informed participants of the meeting that in specific circumstances, Special Courts have proved effective in facilitating quicker access to justice, citing examples of the Commercial Court which was put in place to attract investors, and the Utilities Court that arbitrates in cases regarding water and electricity.

-Written by Prossy Nakanjako