Informal Justice Mechanisms Commended for Promoting Justice

Informal justice systems have been applauded for playing a key role in dispensing justice for Ugandans, specifically the poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Speaking at the national symposium on informal justice systems in Uganda that took place on Friday 25th September 2020, at Hotel Africana, Hon Justice Duncan Gaswaga, the Deputy Head of the Commercial Division of the High Court of Uganda said that informal justice systems such as community courts are alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that are faster, cheaper and accessible to Ugandans. This, he said, has demystified the fear for delayed or no justice by the formal justice systems.

“Case backlog and delays in dispensing justice are what people decry of the formal courts, something caused by the limited numbers of judicial officers. We therefore need to see how best to amplify the informal justice model to feel the gap of the formal,” he said at the conference that was organised by World Voices Uganda, with the support of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF). The conference attracted dignitaries from the Justice sector, law scholars, traditional and cultural institutions and civil society organisations, among others.

Speaking on behalf of the Democratic Governance Facility, Anders Bastholm, the Program Leaning Manager at the Facility said that such informal justice mechanisms have gone a long way in promoting justice and deserve to be formally recognised as such.

“Both formal and informal justice systems work towards attaining justice for all. We should thus accept that they both complement each other, other than viewing them as competitors,” he said.

This was confirmed by Gard Benda, the Country Director of WVU who said the poor are inhibited in terms of accessing justice, as many fear the formal courts and their processes. He thus advocated for more support and recognition of community courts.

According to a statement by WVU, there have been evidential models of informal justice operational in Uganda. Some of these models he said, include Bataka Courts by WVU, the Qhadi Courts by Muslim Centre for Justice and Law, the Kayo Cuk in Karamoja, the Tonu ci Koka and Ailuc among the Madi in Teso, the akiriket councils of elders in Karamoja, Matoput in Acholi, among others.  It further states that all these have made immense contribution to promotion of order, justice and reduction in human rights abuses among Ugandans, although, they still face some challenges like lack of formal recognition as a complementary arm of administration of justice and as a resulted, they are not regulated and lack proper mechanisms for accountability.

During the symposium, WVU also launched a report titled “Capacity Assessment of Informal Justice Actors in Delivering Justice: Compliance with Constitutional Requirements and International Human Rights Standards”

The report culminated from an assessment of the capacity of informal justice systems in five districts located in Albertine and Rwenzori sub regions including:  Kyegegwa, Kibaale, Kyenjojo, Kakumiro and Kagadi in delivering access to justice and their adherence to constitutional and international human rights standards. The report highlights WVU’s Bataka Courts Model as a typical example of community-based informal justice service delivery models that was piloted and adopted by the communities in Kibaale District to enhance access to justice for the poor.

WVU, with funding from the DGF, is implementing a project titled “Enhancing access to justice for the poor and most vulnerable persons in Albertine and Rwenzori regions”. The project’s aim is to ensure promotion of informal justice systems as a complimentary avenue to formal justice systems in delivering access to justice services to the poor and most vulnerable people.