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JUDICIARY TO STRENGTHEN INNOVATIONS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE-PRINCIPAL JUDGE FLAVIAN ZEIJA

Dr Flavian Zeija (3rd left) and other Justice, law and order sector officials in Arua

BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU

ARUA: Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The principal judge, Dr Flavian Zeija, has said that the judiciary will strengthen innovations that it has introduced in order to improve access to justice by the litigants.

He listed operationalization of more courts to reduce the distance for the people to attend courts, increased staffing, construction of better court premises and decentralization of inspectors of courts to check on the performance of judicial officers.

Some of the more subtle innovations that the head of the High Court promised are the introduction of biometric thump print machines for judicial officers to sign in and out of station and a video monitoring system so as to stump out absenteeism and late coming by court staff.

“We are going to strengthen mediation and improve information technology application in the judicial system,” added Dr Zeija.

The Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija inspecting Justice, Law and Order Sector Stalls during Arua Court Open Day on Tuesday

The principal Judge explained that for the refugee community, the judiciary is considering setting up courts at the refugee settlements to ensure expeditious handling of cases involving refugees and asylum seekers.

He said discussions with the office of the Prime Minister on how to implement the proposal is ongoing.

“Refugees are delicate population. They can easily move across the porous borders, so, you need to handle their cases promptly,” he asserted.

Dr Zeija also hinted on plans to digitize the justice, law and order sector with the aim of linking the file records of the police, the courts of judicature and the prisons for easy reference of the records of litigants.

He was speaking to judicial officers, members of the Uganda law society, local leaders, and the public during a court open day at Arua High Court premises on Tuesday.

Dr Zeija took stock of reforms and developments that have taken place since October 20, 2020 when he announced that the judiciary was going to create new magistrate courts in the West Nile so as to make access to justice easy for litigants.

Since then, the judicial service commission has increased the number of Chief Magistrates to three but still short of the designated five for the region, meanwhile more Grade One magistrates have been deployed with new court opened including for Arua City.

Another key achievement, said Dr Zeija, has been the weeding out of notorious judicial officers who were fond of messing up cases to deny justice to those who merit it.

A participant expressing a point during the Arua Court Open Day

Sarah Langa Sui, the chief registrar in the judiciary, said the reforms would streamline the process of delivery of justice and improve the performance of the judiciary to eradicate case backlogs.

Information from the prisons service shows that at Arua prisons, the women’s prison wing and Giligili prisons, there are 1,153 prisoners including three debtors, 637 convicts and 513 remands; in the female wing alone, there are 99 prisoners of whom 63 are convicts and 36 are on remand and there are 11 babies spending jail term with their mothers in the cells while the Giligili prisons has 186 inmates of whom 42 are convicts and 144 are on remand.

“The judiciary is certainly not perfect and we have issues. But when we talk about these issues together with you, we find solutions,” she said.

She indicated that they are in the process of reorganizing and regazetting judicial area to reflect the 160 chief Magisterial positions approved by the cabinet recently while moving to establish Grade One magistrates per constituency.

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