KAMPALA – The Chief Justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, has said access to justice is one of his signature themes.
“The main theme of my tenure is to improve access to justice,” said on Thursday while opening the 2nd Legal Aid Innovations Conference (LAICON) at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.
“I believe justice is meaningless if it only remains in text books, provisions in legislation or in the Constitution if our people cannot resolve their rights through courts of law,” he said, adding that people from his village have to travel 160km to find a court.
The Conference organized by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) and its partners was under the theme “Exploring new innovations to enhance access to justice amidst COVID-19 pandemic”.
The CJ thanked the organisers of the Conference for the platform to deliberate on ways to enhance access to justice as well as devise strategies to improve on the administration of Justice in Uganda.
He pointed out that as an institution, the Judiciary is implementing Electronic Court Case Management Information Systems (ECCMIS).
“ECCMIS is a fully-featured system which automates and tracks all aspects of Court processes of a case life cycle from initial filing through disposition and appeal. This system once rolled out fully will contribute to reduction of corrupt practices through eliminating human interaction in handling case files. We will continue to advance all reforms towards increased innovations and access to the Courts and information.”
In relation to the COVID-19 lockdown and it’s attendant problems, the CJ said the Judiciary fairly remained afloat by adopting innovative approaches to continue with hearing of cases. “We resorted to use of innovations including virtual hearings and online service delivery mechanisms including delivering judgments online.”
The CJ reiterated his commitment to support proper innovations and strategies. “Together we shall overcome the current challenges in the administration of Justice,” he said.
Adding: “It is commendable to recognize and appreciate those who have ventured into innovations, and to protect their works as a motivation for further development in this area. I am confident that appreciating those who have excelled in innovations in an event like this one, begets more innovations, which in the long run may propel us into success.”
H.E Roswitha Kremser, the head of office, at the Austrian Development Cooperation asked Government and Legal Aid Service Providers to implement legal aid innovations in a manner that respects human rights, confidentiality and privacy.
She also applauded the JLOS institutions COVID-19 response where many legal aid institutions provided legal services during the lockdown and urged Parliament to pass the Legal Aid Bill.
Court of Appeal Justice and Chairperson of Geoffrey Kiryabwire Chairperson LAICON 2 Vetting Committee advised lawyers be open to what digitization can offer in the administration of justice.
The Director of Public Prosecution, Justice Jane Frances Abodo, said innovators in the justice sector need mentors to ensure effective inventions.
Explaining the concept behind LAICON, LASPNET Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sylvia Namubiru, revealed that the legal innovation challenge was birthed in 2016 by Barefoot Lawyers as one of the ways of using innovation to improve access to justice.
Out of the 35 innovators who took part in the Conference, Legal Hub Uganda emerged as the winner at the conference that was attended by several stakeholders.
These included among others, Court of Appeal Justice, Remmy Kasule, European Union Ambassador to Uganda Ms Mirjam Blaak, JLOS Senior Technical Advisor Ms Rachel Odoi Musoke and Assistant Registrar/Judiciary PRO HW Jamson Karemani.