The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has reloaded and reorganized the performance of its human rights tribunal function to better serve the populace. The Commission has already changed the guidelines for conducting of tribunal sessions and these will first be implemented during the maiden sessions that kickoff this year on February 6th. The UHRC Director Complaints, Investigation and Legal Services Ms. Ida Nakiganda has already made the said guidelines public and also issued a Cause-list of 50 complaints through the Commission Registrar.
“In line with Clause 14 of the Guidelines, the Tribunal shall be fully constituted with a quorum of the Chairperson and not less than three members of the Commission. In the current dispensation of the Commission which constitutes a Chairperson and Six Members of the Commission, the Chairperson will constitute two panels with each Panel having three Members of the Commission. Each of the two Panels will be chaired by the Chairperson. The Chairperson may assign each of the Panels to handle Tribunal matters in any of the Regional offices,” reads in part rule 47 of the new rules.
This section of the new guidelines is a departure from the previous practice where one Commissioner would conduct sessions at any of the 12 Regional offices as per the released cause-list/schedule. This year, the tribunal hearings will start from four regional offices, that is; Central (Kampala), Gulu, Moroto and Soroti.
“A total of 50 matters have been cause-listed for hearing at Kampala, Gulu, Moroto and Soroti offices. The tribunal sessions will be funded by the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and will be conducted as summarized in the table below;” reads in part a communication from the Ms. Nakiganda
There has also been changes in the venue for Kampala and Soroti complaints whereby sessions for Central Regional Office will now be held at the UHRC Headquarters on Plot 22B Lumumba Avenue and not at the Naguru-based Central Regional offices as was previously the case. Soroti Regional office will also this time host tribunals for both Moroto and Soroti complaints.
Out of the 19 cases to be heard at the UHRC headquarters, all save for one for Byakika Peter Vs KCCA are directly against government through the office of the Attorney General. Tribunal sessions at the head office will also involve delivery of decisions for14 out of the 19 cases; while 04 cases will be for hearing defence; and 01 case will be for further hearing. All these cases will be handled in three days that starting from Monday 6th to Wednesday 8th February 2023.
The next session that will be held at Gulu Regional Office from Monday 13th to Wednesday15th February 2023 will see the tribunal panel handling a total of 18 complaints, all of which are against the Attorney General. Whereas five of the cases will be for delivering decisions; eight for defence hearing; three for further hearing; and one for amicable settlement. During the combined Moroto and Soroti session, only one complaint is against the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the rest are against the Attorney General. Nine of the 14 cases will be for further hearing, two are for delivering a decision and one is for defence hearing. The Commission spent the better part of last year without conducting tribunals partly due to challenges of funding and to carry out this reorganization process. The Commission mandate to conduct human rights tribunal hearings is derived from Article 52(1) (a) of the Ugandan Constitution. Under Article 53 (1) and (2) the Commission has powers to investigate complaints of human rights violations and order compensation or any other legal remedy or redress where it is satisfied that the victim’s rights were indeed violated. The Commission has powers of Court to summon anyone and can commit anyone, found in contempt of its orders, to civil prison.