Challenges faced by refugees in seeking justice in refuge settlements

Challenges faced by refugees in seeking justice in refuge settlements

BY CISSY MAKUMBI

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

LAMWO Got tired of being battered by the husband whom she had five children with, Agnes Iremo took the matter to local authorities in the refugee settlement seeking for their intervention.

However were she hoped for intervention, it did not help much as more insults were being hurled and beatings on her whenever her husband would return home.

Ms Iremo is among the 51,000 South Sudan Refugees camped in the three settlement centres of Palabek-Gem, Palabek- Ogili and Palabek- Kal all in Lamwo district.

When the  battering continued and  she could not stand it anymore, she opted  to reach out to police in  November, 23, 2018,  recorded a statement and husband was picked  up, detained at Lamwo central police station and later remanded.

“He was charged with assault and remanded at Lamwo prison pending conviction, however being  naïve and ignorant  about the laws in Uganda, I did not follow- up on the matter in the court  and a few months later,  my tormentor ( husband), was back  and this time round he tormented me to the pulp,’’ she  said

I had to abandoned the home and seek safety somewhere else but still within the settlement, Ms Iremo told Daily Monitor in an Interview in the refugee settlement.

Mr Lemi Okullu, who shares a similar plight says on many occasions his lock up shop has been broken into and merchandize stolen but nothing much has been done in punishing the culprits.

“Have reported several times to police but have not been helped much, am being told that investigations are still under way something that I feel is frustrating  some of us who are supplementing on what we get in terms of donations from UNHCR,’’ Mr Okullu.

He however said at times some cases are also disposed off without the complainant since many cannot access the courts of law.

Chairperson refugees in Lamwo settlements Robert Ocan, said many refugees have not been able to follow up their cases in the courts of law since many are not familiar with the court proceedings here while others lacked the resources to reach where the courts are located.

“ We are glad that in November last year, a court session was  held here in the  settlement,  those who were convicted are serving their sentences,’ he said

We feel that if such cases are handed and suspects are disciplined, it will bring sanitary in households and settlements, Mr Ocan said.

Lamwo Settlement Camp Commandant Julius Kamuza, told Daily Monitor that the mobile courts are not only targeting the refugees but also the locals (nationals neighbouring the settlements.

“We are glad that the services have been brought closer to the people so that justice is not delayed,’’   Mr Kamuza said.

In November last year, there was a court sessions in which 20 cases were course listed, nine were involving Refugees and 11 cases of Nationals.

The session covered crimes ranging from theft of animals, physical assault causing bodily injuries, threatening violence, escape from lawful custody and malicious damage of property.

Out of the 20 course listed cases, nine cases were handled during the mobile court session targeting mainly refugees.

Acquitted/discontinued

Three cases were discontinued, two cases of threatening violence and one cases of theft of a cow were acquitted due to prosecution’s failure to have sufficient evidence.

More three cases, the accused were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment which includes one case of malicious damage of property.

The accused was found guilty and convicted to seven months in   prison, one case of unlawful wounding, the accused was found guilty and sentenced to 19 month in prison.

Another one case of assault causing bodily harm, the accused pleaded guilty and was convicted on his own plea of guilty and was immediately sentenced to ten months in prison.

Referred to Higher court.

Three cases involving male refugees were referred to chief magistrate’s court since Grade one court lacked jurisdiction to handle the matter.

Ongoing Hearing.

11 cases involving nationals were adjourned for further hearing since witnesses never turned up due to non-service of summons to appear during mobile court at Palabek Refugee settlement.

The judicially spokesperson Solomon Muyita, said at the moment the ongoing mobile courts in the refugee settlements are being funded by their developmental partners like UNHCR, UNDP, Refugee Law Project.

“ The judicially has a plan to intensify mobile courts  in the refugee settlement in the next financial year but for now, the partners are taking a lead,’’ Mr Muyita told Daily Monitor.