News / Africa

In Uganda, Mobile Courts Deliver Justice for Refugees

People displaced by fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels make their way home after spending a night in the Ugandan town of Bunagana, Oct. 31, 2013.People displaced by fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels make their way home after spending a night in the Ugandan town of Bunagana, Oct. 31, 2013.
x
People displaced by fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels make their way home after spending a night in the Ugandan town of Bunagana, Oct. 31, 2013.
People displaced by fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels make their way home after spending a night in the Ugandan town of Bunagana, Oct. 31, 2013.
Life in a refugee camp is hard, but seeking justice as a refugee can be even harder. Foreign legal systems can be confusing to refugees, and the camps are often located far from the nearest courthouse.
 
That is why the U.N. refugee agency has decided to bring the courts to a Ugandan refugee camp.
 
“We set up these mobile courts as a result of refugees and some of the local Ugandans having to wait very long times before they had access to justice, or having to travel very long distances to reach the government courts," said UNHCR’s Lucy Beck, referring to a new traveling judiciary that recently held two sessions in the Nakivale refugee settlement.
 
Similar to courts in Kenyan and Zambian camps, lawyers at Nakivale are provided pro bono by the Ugandan government. Since being established in May, the court has processed cases addressing fairly minor crimes, though UNHCR is planning to bring in a high court judge soon to hear 50 serious cases, the majority of which, says Beck, are rape cases.
 
Three-quarters of the refugees in southwestern Uganda come from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, where rape is often used as a weapon of war. Because of this, DRC is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, and the pattern of violence, says Beck, tends to carry over into refugee populations.
 
“One of the main reasons for this court is to try and encourage people to report more, so that we can find out all of the cases within the community," she said. “The reality is that ... probably a lot of the cases aren’t being reported or coming to our attention.”
 
UNHCR has found that poverty and high unemployment rates among refugees make women more vulnerable to rape. But the American Refugee Committee’s Philbert Murungi, who works with rape victims, says even a woman’s daily chores can put her at risk.
 
“Some of them are attacked on their way towards the water point, some of them are attacked on their way towards collecting firewood for fuel and domestic use," he said.
 
But the stigma of being assaulted can be crushing, and Murungi says victims often find themselves rejected by family and isolated from their community.
 
There are also safe houses available for these women, he said, explaining that creating safe locations and providing mobile courts will help women avoid rape and make it easier to report.
 
“But if they are unwilling to do so, there is only so much any court can do," he says. “She would fear the community itself. She might fear saying it out to her parents. They do not report, they fear. In defilement and rape cases, evidence is so crucial. If these people can come up, then it would be better.”
 
But the court can only offer so much. With more than 70 percent of rapes among Congolese refugees perpetrated in the DRC, Beck says many of them are nearly impossible to prosecute in Uganda, which means justice may always remain out of reach for some women.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid