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 Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid