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Chief Justice Visits U.S State Department

The Honarable Chief Justice, Bart Katurebe presenting the Ugandan Flag to a U.S State Department official in Washington, DC (PHOTO: JLOS) The Honarable Chief Justice, Bart Katurebe presenting the Ugandan Flag to a U.S State Department official in Washington, DC (PHOTO: JLOS)

 

WASHINGTON, DC: The Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, on Tuesday October 10 2017 visited the United State of America’s State Department where he held a high-level meeting with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Randy Berry.

Leading a delegation of Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) key players and the International Justice Mission officials, the CJ engaged the department on matters of human rights and independence of the courts, freedom of expression and support to civil society structures.

Mr Berry said his Department is keenly interested in issues of the rule of law, access to justice particularly elimination of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).

He expressed gratitude towards the partnership between IJM and Uganda's JLOS and hoped it will go a long way in supporting Uganda Judiciary and JLOS’ initiatives in improving access to justice.

The CJ said that improving access to justice is a fundamental issue now facing the courts and the entire justice sector.

“The sector has put in place a number of innovations geared at improving access to justice for all persons in Uganda but more particularly the marginalised and vulnerable groups,” said Justice Katureebe. “These include Plea Bargaining, Sentencing Guidelines, Audio-Visual Link technology, computerisation of court processes, gender-based training, development and publication of gender and other bench books, among others.”

CJ further noted that Uganda has taken the approach of creating Justice Centres to ensure presence of the police, the prosecution, the courts, the prisons and probation service. This is to ensure that the whole chain is complete from investigation, prosecution, adjudication, correctional and psycho-social support.

He said the major issue is resourcing of the Sector to be able to have a presence and competent human resource throughout the country.

The State Department also expressed interest in traditional and local systems of dispute resolution which have the capacity of easing the burden on the formal courts.

The Department was informed about Uganda’s system of Local Council Courts, which are currently non-operational because of absence of elected Local Councils. The local council system is yet to be fully developed. The transitional justice system is also undergoing development in Uganda.

CJ noted that there is need identify the causes of human rights abuses to identify the causes, one of which being inadequate training on the part of JLOS actors.

The CJ highlighted the importance of the Judicial Training Institute in the Judiciary, adding that there was need to effectively resource it so it can build the capacity of the various JLOS actors through regular trainings.

In a related development, the Chief Justice and team also met with US House of Representatives Congressman Chris Smith, the Chair of the African Sub-Committee for Foreign Affairs together with other members of the Congress.

Congressman Smith said that issues of violence against women and children constitute one of the greatest challenges facing many countries in the World. He further stated that human trafficking, particularly for sex and labour exploitation, is awfully real and ought to be fought by everyone at all fronts.

The Chief Justice said Uganda was looking at getting as many partners as possible in a bid to effectively execute the respective mandates of each institution of government and civil society.

“The reason for coming out here therefore is to borrow best practices and to confer with our partners on the best way to address these issues. We have had effective partnerships with IJM and Pepperdine University which we are building on,” he said.

 

Agreed issues of mutual cooperation and assistance include:

a) Training of judicial officers and other justice actors in the specific areas of SGBV and human trafficking to ensure a competent and effective administration of justice. 

b) Advocacy towards improved support to ensure strong governance and strong justice institutions.

c) Targeted assistance to particular programs in the JLOS sector; programs that will make a significant improvement to access to justice for the common person. Taking care of the rights of the lowest person means protection to all

 

By Andrew Khaukha // Published: October 16, 2017