Different justice actors involved in asylum seekers and refugee programmes gathered at the Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court for the first open day held for this special group of people.
The day was presided over by the Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija.
The open day was in response to a report dubbed: “Access to Justice for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Host Community Open Day Info Pack” that was released at the court, highlighting some of the challenges refugees and asylum seekers face.
These included;language barrier, delayed justice, limited legal guidance, ignorance of rights and responsibilities, corruption tendencies, not knowing what to do upon reporting a case to the authorities, discrimination and bias, and the negative attitude towards non-nationals by nationals and duty bearers among others.
Zeija explained that sometimes, the courts find it hard to grant bail to refugees for fear that they might jump bail.
He gave an example of the late German national, Bernhard Glaser, who succumbed to cancer in incarceration while battling cases of sexual abuse, following accusations of molesting Ugandan girls.
“As the Judiciary, we were accused of killing that German national by not releasing him on bail to seek specialised treatment. It’s not true; that man came to court speaking English. When it came to bail application hearing, the presiding judge said the suspect claimed only to know German,”said Zeija.
In response to the challenges facing refugees in accessing justice,Zeija, cited some of the interventions.
“For example, in 2013, the Judiciary, with support from UNHCR, launched mobile courts to improve access to justice for victims of crime in Nakivale Refugee camp, the country’s largest and oldest settlement. The mobile courts benefited 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandan nationals, living in and around the settlement.”
Zeija cautioned the lawyers who use delaying tactics in court saying the culprits would be penalised.
The Nakawa Chief Magistrate, Dr Douglas Singiza, commended the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and CJSI for funding the event.
Addressing the meeting refugees, Caroline Lai, the deputy country director of IRC, said the court open day was an opportunity for different institutions to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers have access to justice.