The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has proposed that magistrate courts are empowered to handle enforcement of human rights.
ULS President, Francis Gimara led a team of lawyers, who appeared before Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, which is currently holding public hearings on the Human Rights Enforcement bill.
Under Clause 1 (2) and Clause 4, it provides that the High Court should be given jurisdiction to hear and determine any application relating to the enforcement or violation of human rights.
However, Gimara told MPs today that currently, the High Court is constrained due to backlog of cases, which has increased and granting exclusive jurisdiction to High Court will worsen the backlog.
Gimara further revealed that the courts are grappling with 114,000 cases, mostly from the High Court; it will hinder access to justice for ordinary citizens.
“The High Court is clogged; the judges are few; the places are very far from the majority of Ugandans so we are proposing that the bill considers giving jurisdiction to the chief magistrates court to enable them handle matters to do with violations of human rights,” Gimara said.
The bill is being fronted by Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka, who also doubles as the chairperson for the Human Rights Committee.
Kamateeka said that the bill will give effect to Article 50 (4) of the Constitution that gives Parliament powers to provide for the procedure of enforcing human rights under Chapter 4 of the constitution and for related matters.
During the same meeting, Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Uganda Christian University, proposed that a victims’ compensation fund is set up under the law to provide compensation to victims whose rights have been violated by the state.
Karugonjo suggested that a timeline of 6 months should be set for government to clear the compensation, while the fund should be housed in the Ministry of Justice.
Human rights lawyers Ladislaus Rwakafuzi and Nicholas Opiyo, Executive Director of Chapter Four, also made presentations before the committee.
Rwakafuzi differed with the Uganda Law Society (ULS) position on having magistrates handle human rights cases. He opined that it is easy for violators to intimidate magistrates
Opiyo, on the other hand, proposed that the bill clearly defines what national interest, public interest and public order is clearly defined.