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The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL) in collaboration with JLOS used an innovative methodology to study the justice needs of the people in Uganda during the Covid-19 Pandemic. An online survey questionnaire was distributed twice: in April-June 2021 and October-December 2021. Confirming the results of previous research, the studies found that almost every respondent had to deal with a legal problem in the previous year.

The sample is non-representative but provides interesting and actionable insights into the demand for justice in Uganda during the pandemic. Younger, better educated, urban residents face mostly debt issues, employment problems, family problems, and disagreements with neighbors. Older, less educated, rural residents face most often land problems, domestic violence, and crimes.

The relationship between COVID-19 and the need for justice is stronger among the younger sample. The study also shows that many justice problems that were not resolved in the first wave were resolved in the second. However, it is concerning that about 30% of the issues which were ongoing in the first wave are still in a process of resolution.

Check out for more results in the first and the second eJNS report.



Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Uganda (August 2021)

Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Uganda (March 2022)


Source: HiiL

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CIRCULAR: Additional operating procedures for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) during the COVID-19 pandemic (Release date: June 21, 2021)




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CIRCULAR: Revised contingency measures by the Judiciary to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19

(Release date: August 3, 2021 / Issued by the Chief Justice)



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KAMPALA -- Press Statement by the Uganda Human Rights Commission on issues of human rights concerns arising from the lockdown imposed in response to the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic





Published: July 19 2021

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By Timothy Lumunye

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is now a global health emergency, affecting more than a billion people worldwide. In more and more countries, normal life has effectively been suspended, as sweeping measures are introduced to control the spread of the disease by way of ‘lockdowns’, bans on social gatherings, and the closure of public facilities. These measures have also had an impact on criminal justice systems, as access to courts and prisons has come under severe restrictions. The administration of justice cannot come to a total standstill, whatever the circumstances.

It is essential that the Justice, Law and Order Sector continues to carry out essential functions, including the processing of criminal cases, and safeguarding the rights and welfare of accused persons, especially those who are on remand.

The accused persons on remand should be able to participate in criminal justice proceedings in person, and it is especially crucial that they are physically present in the courtroom during trial. This is not possible currently, because of the restrictions imposed by Uganda Prisons, in line with the standard public health guidelines.  The accused absence from the courtroom seriously undermines their ability to participate in criminal justice proceedings effectively, and the exercise of the rights of the defence.

Its high time Uganda Prisons came up with measures to enable inmates on remand attend court proceedings and prevent an unprecedented backlog of cases that could harm the effective administration of justice in the future.  This can be done in a phased manner, by opening up first, less congested Prison facilities. 

The Judiciary has taken extraordinary measures to keep criminal justice systems operational, preventing lengthy delays in criminal proceedings, and ensuring that urgent matters, such pre-trial detention hearings, are not postponed. The Judiciary does not however work in a vacuum and relies on other stakeholders in the Justice, Law and Order Sector (such as Police, Prisons, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) for it to be effective. With these stakeholders also substantially limited by the lockdown and other COVID-19 related restrictions, court business has literally ground to a halt, in as far as access to justice for accused persons on remand is concerned. 


Timothy Lumunye is a Grade 1 Magistrate at Nateete Rubaga court


Published: 24th March 2021

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KAMPALA - Normal operations in the Courts in Uganda shall have to wait until the general opening of public transport, the Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, has said. The directive was contained in the Revised Contingency Measures to Prevent and Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in the Judiciary Circular issued on May 27. “Partial Court operations are hereby reinstated while observing the Presidential Directives and Ministry of Health (MOH) Guidelines and Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs) as indicated hereunder,” said the Chief Justice.

“Courts shall continue to hear only applications and urgent matters until there is a general opening up of public transport. Upon the easing of the general public transport, courts shall resume normal hearings in civil matters.

“Criminal cases shall be restricted to: plea taking for Magistrates Courts, bail applications and plea bargains across the board, and appeals for the appellate courts. These restrictions shall remain in force until prisoners are able to be produced in Courts,” reads the CJ Circular in part.

The head of the Judiciary further stated that the use of audio-visual facilities shall continue alongside other modes of conducting hearings – determined by the head/in-charge of a specific Court/Station.

He also urged all Judicial Officers to continue writing and delivering judgments and rulings during this time.





Published: May 28, 2020


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By Timothy Lumunye

In line with the standard public health guidelines, Uganda had to institute a partial lockdown of the country when it was confirmed that there was an outbreak of COVID-19 within the country. When the lockdown was instituted only “essential” services were allowed to operate, those deemed basic and yet indispensable without which the nation would collapse.

Indeed the COVID-19 pandemic means we are wading in uncharted waters. But with no vaccine in the near future and with the number of patients increasing by the day, there is no way of predicting how long the lockdown will be in force, or how long it will take for judicial work to return to “normal”. This article therefore examines existing interventions in the administration of justice, challenges and how the pandemic presents an opportunity for access to justice through LC Courts.


Current efforts by the Judiciary

The Judiciary was listed as an essential service but would only hear remands, urgent mentions, bail and other very pressing interlocutory applications. Court registries were directed to stay open but only for the purposes of filing new suits. Even then extreme social distancing was to be practiced by all participants to the court process. To mitigate this, the Chief Justice issued the “Guidelines for on-line hearings in the Judiciary of Uganda”. The Guidelines indicate that online hearings may be used for inter alia, delivering of judgments and rulings, plus the hearing of bail applications, mentions and interlocutory applications. Attendance/participation is by invitation through a Judiciary provided link. The hearing of these matters is not exclusively limited to the online option though and in some cases, advocates and parties appear in person before the judicial officer.

These efforts are building upon a foundation set by other recent Judiciary interventions.  For example the installation of a Video Conferencing Facility between Buganda Road Court and Luzira Maximum Prison (Male and female Wing), Kigo Government prison and Kitalya Government prison.  Initially it aimed at handling cases at mention stages especially in very sensitive cases that require a high level of security where transporting the accused persons to Court may cause security threats to the entire public or unnecessary cost.  


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Editor's Note: The writer is a Magistrate Grade 1, Courts of Judicature. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.


Published: May 18 , 2020

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Tuesday, 28 April 2020 16:33

#COVID-19: Museveni pardons 833 prisoners


President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has exercised his constitutional powers to pardon 883 prisoners across the country.  

The Constitution under article 121(4) says that: The president may, on the advice of the committee [Prerogative of Mercy committee], grant to any person convicted of an offence a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions; grant to a person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, from the execution of punishment imposed on him or her for an offence; substitute a less severe form of punishment for a punishment imposed on a person for an offence; or remit the whole or part of a punishment imposed on a person or of a penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to Government on account of any offence.

Frank Baine, the spokesperson of the Uganda Prisons Services, said the details of who is going to be released and what kind of sentences they have been serving will be communicated as of when they have worked them out. 

Museveni’s move to pardon such a big number of prisoners is in line with government’s efforts to decongest prisons which are said to be potential places for the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.




Published: April 28, 2020


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The Inspector General of Police JM Okoth-Ochola(Esq) has issued instructions to all Police officers in Uganda following the establishment of a COVID 19 case at Masindi Police Station on Friday 1st May 2020. These guidelines include: 

a) All police officers must wear face masks at all times while on duty without excuse. Failure to do this shall lead to arrest and prosecution

b) No officer shall be found carrying a passenger, a suspect or a colleague on a motorcycle while on or off duty. Over loading police vehicles too is prohibited.

c) All officers in charge of Barracks administration are tasked with improving the Barracks environment to promote personal hygiene and good sanitation.







Published: May 4, 2020

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Following its statement that was issued on the 25th of March 2020 on the human rights concerns in dealing with Covid-19, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) continues to monitor the observance of human rights, duties and responsibilities in the fight against Covid -19 in line with its mandate under Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. 

The Commission has been monitoring the human rights situation in the last three weeks of the lockdown and now wishes to appreciate the good work done by the Government of Uganda under the strategic leadership of His Excellency the President, and under various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, with the Ministry of Health at the helm in conjunction with all security agencies, particularly for the well-designed multi-sectoral preventive and response measures to COVID-19 in the country.




Published: April 24, 2020

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