KAMPALA – Key stakeholders in the justice sector on Thursday gathered at Mestil Hotel for the 25th Joint GOU-Development Partners JLOS Annual Review meeting, which was held under the theme; _”Empowering the People. Building Trust. Upholding Rights.”_
Presided over by the Chief Justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, the Review showcased the performance of the different justice institutions in the past year.
The Performance Report which was presented by Mr. Sam Wairagala, (JLOS Deputy Technical Advisor), indicates that there is an increase in the number of people convicted at the different court levels.
The Report shows that there is an increase in the conviction rates from 45% in 2016 to 62.6% in 2019/20.
Mr. Wairagala attributed the high conviction rate to expeditious adjudication of cases, implementation of the Judiciary Case Backlog Strategy. He also commended the usage of innovations such as Plea Bargaining, Small Claims Procedure, Alternative Dispute Resolution and mobile courts.
The Report indicates that the three years of implementing the Sector Development Plan IV have yielded a 6% increase in disputes resolved and a 9% reduction in people facing justice problems.
It reveals that case management has continued to improve following the adoption of the Case Backlog Reduction Strategy, adding that it has reduced from 24% in 2016 to 18.2% in the year under review, despite the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown.
This, according to Wairagala, has reduced the number of remand prisoners who currently stand at 49%.
The Report further indicates that crime rate has reduced from 677 in 2016 to 513 in 2019/20 due to investment in use of the technology as well as an increase in police strength.
In delivering his speech, the Chief Justice called on JLOS institutions to respect the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution.
He observed that the independence of Government institutions is key if Uganda is to have free and fair elections.
He emphasized the need of promoting cooperation, coordination, and communication among institutions with closely linked mandate as they strive to ensure justice for all people.
In spite of the leaps in justice disposal, the CJ noted that case backlog is still a challenge due to delays in the administration of justice.
“Related to case backlog, increased prison population and congestion is still persistent. The current prisons carrying capacity is 19,826 prisoners while the population at the end of the year stood at 63,851, far exceeding the actual holding capacity by 44,025,” he observed.
The Chief Justice said Covid-19 has highlighted the need for digital transformation in service delivery, especially with regard to citizen engagement and empowerment.
He also emphasised the need for more investment in crime intelligence and response to ensure maintenance in law and order and further reduction in crime rate.
Justice Owiny-Dollo thanked President Museveni and the sector ministers for the efforts made to ensure that key positions are filled. He also requested the President to appoint the chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commissions.
Austrian Ambassador, Dr Roswitha Kremser, who is the chairperson of the JLOS Development Partners Group, said they are focusing on three points of concentration which are pre-trial detention, SGBV and case backlog management arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. She commended the innovations put in place by the Judiciary to fight case backlog especially during the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chief Registrar, Sarah Langa Siu, called for the increasing the jurisdiction of Magistrates Courts as one of the ways to manage case backlog and improve performance of the courts.
On his part, the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, asked political players to abide by the laws enshrined in the Constitution to avoid violence during the Elections.
He equally shared that the Legal Aid Bill is awaiting Cabinet approval.
The Bill, which has been before Cabinet since 2012 aims to provide for easy access to free legal aid by marginalised and vulnerable groups and regulate the legal aid service providers in the country.