ARUA – There was furore at Imvepi Refugee Camp’s Zone III in Arua District last week as the settlement held its first ever Court Open Day.
Many refugees walked from neighbouring villages to witness proceedings of the day.
Arua Chief Magistrate Daniel Lubowa, who presided over the Open Day, explained that majority of forced migrants live far from justice institutions and legal aid providers.
He added that they do not have the legal knowledge and financial capacity to effectively present their cases and demand their rights. “Many are traumatized, disoriented, physically and emotionally vulnerable,” Mr Lubowa said.
Mr Daniel Komakech Atine, a Senior Legal Officer at Uganda Law Society (ULS), explained to the refugees that most court open days are held at court. “This is the first of its kind to hold a Court Open Day in the refugee camp,” he said.
The Judiciary Senior Communications Officer, Mr Solomon Muyita, sensitized the refugee community on the different court initiatives in place that they can utilise. These included Plea Bargaining, Small Claims Procedure and Mediation.
An assortment of brochures on how to improve their court experience was shared including how to secure bail, the different court processes among others, were distributed.
The camp leadership requested for the establishment of a court in the settlement as it was reported that there was a high prevalence of SGBV cases which required immediate attention.
It was also observed that there was need to train the Refugee Welfare Committees (RWCs) on legal issues so that they are able to amicably settle some cases as and when they arise.
It was also observed that there was need for psycho social support for victims of defilement, assaults, SGBV-related cases etc as victims are always traumatised and stigmatized.
Other challenges highlighted in the camp among others include limited access to vehicles for transportation of accused persons to Arua court; refugees threatening each other’s lives.
The climax of the day’s activities was when a mobile court session was held with 10 cases concluded.
HW Lubowa said the mobile courts system was proof of what the justice sector can achieve when institutions work together.
Representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister commended the Judiciary for the mass legal sensitization.
The Court Open Day was a climax of public awareness campaigns in different refugee settlement areas in West Nile region.
The Court Open Day was supported by the United Nations Development Fund and through the Justice Law and Order Sector.