The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) on February 4, 2019 resumed holding hearings for complaints of human rights violations brought before its Tribunals at all its country-wide offices. These tribunals are conducted under Article 53 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which confers upon UHRC powers of the High Court in performance of its core functions of protecting and promoting Human Rights.
Three Commissioners; Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba, Meddie B. Mulumba and Victoria Rusoke Businge will be traversing the country holding tribunal hearings at the various UHRC Regional Offices for the next three weeks. According to the cause list issued by the Commission Registrar Dorcus Musiimenta the three Commissioners will preside over tribunal hearings in Regional Offices of FortPortal, Kampala, Mbarara, Moroto, Masaka, Arua and Jinja.
“In week one, Commissioner Amooti will be in Fort Portal, Commissioner Mulumba in Moroto and Commissioner Rusoke in Kampala. In the second week, Commissioner Amooti will be in Kampala, Commissioner Mulumba in Masaka and Commissioner Rusoke in Arua. In the third week, Commissioner Katebalirwe Amooti will be in Mbarara, Commissioner Mulumba in Arua while Commissioner Rusoke will be in Jinja,” Musimenta said.
The three Commissioners will preside over tribunal hearings during the first two days of each weekly session and utilise the other two days of the week to work with Commission Counsels based at the respective Regional Offices for technical input in reviewing the information gathered from the just concluded session hearings. The Commissioners are then expected utilise the last day of the week to prepare and travel to the next location in time to resume hearing sessions scheduled for Monday of the following week.
In the opening session held at Fort Portal Regional Office Boardroom on Monday February 4, 2019, Commissioner Katebalirwe Amooti is scheduled to deliver decisions in two cases whose hearings have already been concluded; one will be for first time hearing and the other will be for receiving a report on an arrangement for amicable settlement.
Other sessions scheduled to be held in Moroto Regional Office and presided over by Commissioner Meddie Mulumba will include delivering of a decision for a case whose hearing had been earlier concluded and three tribunal sessions for continuation of hearing of various human rights complaints allegedly committed in Karamoja region and filed before the UHRC tribunal.
In Kampala, Commissioner Rusoke will preside over a total of four tribunal hearings in which one will involve delivery of a decision for a concluded matter, and the rest will be holding sessions of further hearings for various cases already before the tribunal. Records revealed that all the cases that will be held at Kampala Central Regional Office during week one session are alleged human rights violations reported by individuals against the Attorney General (Government).
According to the same recently released cause list, the UHRC tribunal sessions for week two will commence on Monday February 11, 2019. During week two tribunal session, Commissioner Katebalirwe Amooti who is scheduled to be stationed at the Kampala Central Regional Office, is scheduled to preside over two tribunal hearings which are a continuation of previous sessions; receive a report on amicable settlement of a previously reported human rights complaint; deliver a decision of a concluded human rights case as well as hold a hearing session for another case during which witnesses will be cross-examined.
On his part Commissioner Mulumba will be in Masaka Regional Office to continue with the process of hearing of an old human rights complaint earlier lodged with the Commission and preside over a tribunal hearing in which parties will be presenting their defence. The Commissioner is also scheduled to preside over two sessions for hearing of new cases that will be commencing at the UHRC tribunal.
Commissioner Rusoke who will be in Arua will preside over a tribunal hearing at which she is scheduled to deliver a decision and two other sessions involving hearing of defence submissions from two cases. While at Arua Regional Office, Commissioner Rusoke will also preside over a tribunal session at which she is expected to hear a case which is still ongoing.
The three Commissioners will continue holding tribunal hearings in the three regions of Kampala, Masaka and Arua on Tuesday February 12, 2019 as part of the week two tribunal session before traveling to the other locations in the country as indicated in the Cause list for week three tribunal sessions.
The presiding Commissioners will again switch regions to implement the Commission’s week three tribunal sessions that are cause listed to commence on Monday 18 February, 2019. Commissioner Katebalirwe Amooti will preside over tribunal hearings based at the UHRC Mbarara Regional office while Commissioner Meddie Mulumba will hold tribunal hearings at Arua Regional Office. Commissioner Rusoke will also preside over tribunal hearings cause listed to be held at the UHRC Jinja Regional office during the third week of February. During the period, the Commissioners will among other duties hold hearings, receive reports for amicable settlements, hear submissions of defence from respondents and evidence from witnesses among other activities under the tribunal hearing function of the Commission.
Unlike court sessions, UHRC tribunals are informal and user-friendly because less formal procedures compared to those of courts have been adopted. The UHRC tribunals are also free of charge and were designed to target the less disadvantaged members of our society who may not afford the costs associated with the regular court system in Uganda. The UHRC tribunal services are therefore easily accessible to all.