JCU acts as a link between the state authorities and the vulnerable and indigent.
JCU interacts with key state authorities to update them on the arising and key access to justice and social issues identified during implementation and seeks for ways to have those issues addressed through policy making to change structures, systems and practices that perpetuate those access to justice challenges that affect the indigent and vulnerable.
Ministries (cabinet) are the highest policy making organ of government and therefore responsible for determining, formulating and implementing the policies of government. Cabinet collectively, and ministers individually, have a primary duty to ensure that government policy best serves the public interest. JCU therefore interacts with key ministries to update them on the arising access to justice issues and social issues identified during implementation and seeks for ways to have those issues addressed through policy making to change structures, systems and practices that perpetuate those access to justice challenges that affect the indigent and vulnerable. Some of the national ministries JCU works with include: Ministries of Education, Works, Lands, Justice, Health, Gender, Labour and Social Development and Industry.
The parliament is the law-making organ of the government and therefore, has the mandate/ power to pass the National Legal Aid Bill. The parliamentary committees have the power to make recommendations to parliament as to the adoption of the National Legal Aid Bill. Furthermore, the Members of Parliament (MPs) have the influence to mobilise their constituency to advocate for state funded legal aid and the passing of the National Legal Aid Bill.
JCU together with other organisations, has had various opportunities to meet with Members of Parliament and make presentations to parliamentary committees on the status of legal aid in Uganda and the need for the passing of the Legal Aid Bill. JCU has also engaged with various parliamentarians and identified the ones who are championing the Bill.
Additionally, in order to contribute towards laws and policies that protect the poor, vulnerable and marginalised, JCU regularly responds to the parliament’s calls seeking public opinion on various Bills. Some of the Bills JCU has contributed to include:
Drawing from its experience, JCU put together its opinion on the various provisions in the Bills and forwarded them to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration.
JCU has contributed to the jurisprudence in a bid to advocate for changes in laws in order to ensure the passing of laws that enhance access to justice for the indigent, vulnerable and marginalised.
JCU is a hosted and supervised by the Judiciary. Most of the JCU offices are located at the court premises and utilities for those offices are provided by the Judiciary. Furthermore, the JCU Steering Committee is chaired by the Registrar of the High Court.
Apart from that, JCU contributes towards reduction of court case backlog in various ways:
JCU is a Government Project of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and receives funding from JLOS that runs three (3) JCU Centres situated in Jinja, Fort Portal and Masaka. The JLOS Senior Technical Advisor sits on the JCU Steering Committee. Moreover, JCU works very closely together with JLOS at the District level through the District Chain-linked Committee (DCC).
The Solicitor General (SG) at the Ministry is the vote holder with the mandate to request for government funding for legal aid in general – this includes also funding for JCU, from the Ministry of Finance, Planning Economic development (MoFPED).
The ministry is responsible for the initiation of relevant laws and policies aimed at provision of state-funded legal aid services to indigent and vulnerable persons.
The ministry is part of the committee that is undertaking advocacy to push for the passing of the National Legal Aid Bill.
A large percentage of the cases JCU handles relate to land. Some of these range from landlord-tenant issues, rights of kibanja holders, spousal consent in the sale of land, forged land titles, rampant mass land evictions by individuals and corporations especially in mineral-rich areas, corrupt land officials etc. JCU endeavours to bring these issues to the attention of the ministry in order to come up with lasting solutions.
While conducting legal awareness sessions in communities, schools, women groups, remand homes, police stations, a number of issues arise that the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is best placed to address.
Some of the cases JCU receives and handles are referred by the ministry. The ministry also has key statistics of indigent, vulnerable and marginalised persons in Uganda that are relevant to JCU’s work and research studies. JCU regularly engages with probation and welfare officers through cross-referrals.
JCU conducts outreaches to children at schools and remand homes. Some of the access to justice issues encountered and identified during these outreaches are brought to the attention of the ministry for their intervention.
In conducting community and other outreaches, JCU encounters persons whose right to health has been infringed. If these challenges are systemic and structural, they are brought to the attention of the ministry as a way to advocate for change.
Sometimes, JCU and UHRC undertake public education and create awareness of legal rights of various communities. UHRC refers some cases to JCU for legal aid and vice versa. UHRC has a representative on the JCU Steering Committee.
It manages estates of deceased person and distributes properties of deceased persons to the beneficiaries of their estates and winding up of estates; management of the interests or properties of minors and persons of unsound mind, and issues Certificates of No Objection to persons intending to apply to Court for Letters of Administration.
JCU works with the Administrator General and the Chief Administrative Officers who are representatives of the office of the Administrator General on the ground, to streamline estates of deceased persons and support poor and vulnerable persons secure what rightly belongs to them. To find out more about succession law and its application visit the section “About your rights“.
The chief administrative officer is the head of the public service in the district and the head of the administration of the district council and the accounting officer of the district.
The LCV is the political head of the district whose roles include; monitoring the general administration of the district and monitoring the implementation of council decisions.
JCU works with them to ensure smooth running of the project and engages them in case of any bottlenecks faced administratively and within their mandate.
The RDCs are the president’s representatives at the district level and are the heads of security. JCU works with the RDCs to address matters affecting poor and vulnerable persons especially in relation to human rights violations.
RDCs also refer persons to JCU seeking legal aid. RDCs in JCU’s areas of operation usually participate in the barazas JCU organizes and address some of the community concerns raised by the residents. JCU and some RDCS participate in joint radio talk shows to discuss key access to justice issues, using the free radio airtime allocated to the office of the RDC.
The EOC is a government agency that is mandated to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons and to take affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.
JCU provides legal aid to clients referred by the EOC.
The UNRA is a government agency mandated to develop and maintain the national roads network, advise the government on general roads policy, contribute to the addressing of national transport concerns, among others.
JCU and UNRA are parties to a Memorandum of Understanding. The objectives of the MoU are to create a framework in which fundamental rights of the public, vulnerable communities and persons affected by UNRA projects are protected and to establish a mechanism to prevent and safeguard persons affected by UNRA projects from suffering adverse impacts of road construction activities.
Under this partnership, JCU among others, provides legal aid to communities and persons affected by UNRA road project activities, undertakes joint monitoring visits to road work sites to ensure that the rights of project affected persons are protected during the road construction projects, provides capacity building to UNRA staff in the management of project affected persons and participates in awareness creation sessions in situations of involuntary resettlement.
The ULRC is a government agency established by Article 248 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995).
The core mandate of the Commission is to study and keep under constant review the acts and other laws comprising the Laws of Uganda, with a view to making recommendations for their systematic improvement, development, modernisation and reform.