A half day focus group discussion on the draft High Court Rules – Judicature (Highcourt) Rules on handling matters involving persons with disabilities
Hon. Med S.K. Kaggwa, Chairperson, UHRC welcomed participants to the meeting and thanked all for setting aside time to join the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Coalition on Disability in this discussion whose results will act as a wheel towards enhancing justice for all in the judiciary without discrimination on grounds of disability. Participants included; Chairperson of the JLOs Working Group on Human Rights and Accountability, Executive Director – NUDIPU, Secretary to the Commission, Senior Technical Advisor JLOS, Representatives from JLOS working group on Human Rights and Accountability, All Non-State Institutions on the JLOS Working Group and Members of the Disability Coalition among many.
It should be noted he said, that the Uganda Human Rights Commission in line with its constitutional mandate to ensure that legislation is in line with international and regional human rights standards often times reviews different bills, policies, acts and plans. As UHRC reviews the different bills, rules, policies and acts UHRC works in consultation with relevant stakeholders to ensure that together, we enrich the drafts with authentic, realistic and implementable ideas. It is upon this background that the Commission and the Coalition on disability invited the Justice Law and Order Sector Working Group on Human Rights and Accountability to discuss and collect your views on the draft Judicature (High Court) Rules on Handling Matters Involving Persons with Disabilities under the Judicature (Amendment) Act 2011.
The National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) used its position on the JLOS working group to make an inquiry into the status of persons with mental disabilities awaiting criminal trial before Court. The UHRC commends NUDIPU for this great initiative.
The aforementioned inquiry was later followed with the judgements in Bushoborozi Eric vs Uganda and CEHURD & Iga Daniel vs the Attorney General which highlighted gaps in the law that needed addressing by way of law reform and reform in practice. These judgments found the provisions for indefinite pre-trial committal of persons with mental disabilities to be unconstitutional. At a meeting with the Chief Justice, NUDIPU and its partners including Commission were requested to come up with a Zero-draft of High court rules to guide judicial officers on the handling of PWDs before court.
The aforementioned draft rules were developed and will be reviewed this morning by you representatives from various JLOS Institutions specifically the (JLOS Working group on Human Rights and Accountability) and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that they are in conformity with the law and human rights standards.
These draft rules provide for the practice and procedures of the court in connection with hearing and intended hearing of cases involving persons with disabilities in the High Court and subordinate courts; reasonable accommodations; accessibilities to court premises and information and Disclosure of disability in a plaint or written statement of defense among others.
The Chairperson, UHRC implored all to candidly present their views on these rules for the good of promoting and protecting rights of persons with disability.
He acknowledged that the draft high court rules if passed into official rules and procedure to be followed by the High Court and consequently other courts will go a long way in ensuring that the right to a fair hearing and equality before the law by PWDs will be enhanced. He also encouraged participants to pay attention to all types of disabilities both physical and mental because these rules are intended for all PWDs not specifics.
He requested that the participants be interactive because they look forward to collecting more information/views on gaps in the Judicature rules that have an impact on PWDs to help guide the government on how to align these rules to the acceptable human rights standards as per the treaties and conventions it has ratified.
He concluded by extending his appreciation to CDLP for funding the activity and the Coalition on Disability for all the preparations made to ensure the meeting was a success.