The Head of office of Austrian Embassy Development Cooperation and member of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) Board, Rosithwa Kremser has called for passing of the Legal Aid Bill which was tabled before Parliament by Gulu Municipality legislator Lyandro Komakech and seconded by Kaberamaido woman Member of Parliament Veronica Bichetelo.
Parliament on September 24, 2020 granted leave to Komakech to introduce a private member’s Bill, titled, the National Legal Aid Bill.
The introduction of the Bill was granted with a petition signed by 800 Ugandans across the country, calling on Government to fast track the law that would increase access to legal services among the vulnerable poor.
The Bill aims at enabling access to free legal aid services by marginalized and vulnerable groups and also regulate the legal aid service providers.
Speaking at the Legal Aid innovations conference in Kampala, Rosithwa Kremser said as development partners they were rooting for increased access to justice for the Ugandan population.
“Although a lot has been achieved in the past 20 years or so since the creation of JLOS sectors (Justice Law and Order Sectors), many of those unfortunately who embark on justice in formal or informal systems still face pertinent challenges,” she said.
Kremser noted that Courts and other justice institutions such as police stations, office of Resident State Attorneys among others are often very far away and hard to reach for people in remote areas, adding that Court users do not always have the funding to get to their JLOS destinations.
“Information regarding Court processes is not easy to access and often hard to understand for the ordinary citizen. Services of advocates and lawyers are needed but not often readily available or too costly,” Kremser said.
The 2017 state of access to justice report of Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) indicated that the lack of legal representation, lack of respect of rule of law and corruption remain serious challenges for some persons seeking justice.
To tackle the above challenges, Kremser called for innovations in the justice sector which she said can bring an improvement.
“Looking at all these challenges, one can very clearly see how the use of technology, innovation can bring an improvement. What can we do to promote E- filing that can decrease the cost of justice and speed up the processes? What can we do to enhance Court users including advocates and prosecutors, how they can easily be updated on the status of their respective cases in real time? What can we also do to enhance time bound hearings?” She asked.
The ambassador also advocated for new solutions to the challenges in the justice sector such as the visual – audio links that allow people to access courts of law when they are not physically present in Court.
Like other countries, Uganda continuously works towards achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 16 which aims to transform the world by ensuring access to justice through promoting peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development and providing access to justice for everybody.