Justice delayed…


…is justice denied.  Right?

Monday I woke before dawn to accompany two IJM lawyers and an aftercare manager to the High Court where our client’s trial was listed for hearing. Our client, an elderly woman wearing traditional dress with those wonderful puffy sleeves, was waving as we drove into the court that morning. She was very sweet, very gentle. We held each other’s hands and said “bulungi” but beyond that her English and my Luganda failed.

Ugandans continued to stream into the courtyard, taking leave from work and families, spending precious money on transportation or walking miles to arrive for their scheduled court hearing.

Unbeknownst to them, a majority of the cases would not be heard.  Why?

No judge.  No registrar.  No chief magistrate.

A lawyer stared at the court building, disillusioned. “Look at all of these people coming to court hoping to receive justice. It is like going to a hospital without doctors.”

The judge and registrar were out this week at a conference in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on the coast of the Indian Ocean. They had not left notice. A full week of cases scheduled on the docket would be pushed back another two months minimum. The chief magistrate had posted a letter on a bulletin board saying that he would be at a workshop on Monday. His cases would be adjourned as well.

Can you imagine arriving prepared for trial only to leave again? Can you imagine if this happened over and over and over and over…?

Our client’s case has been sitting for years. My colleague estimated that a case is only heard about half of the time that it is called for hearing–due to missing or unprepared judges, witnesses, case files, lawyers…

We dropped off our client at the home which we are fighting to protect.  She returned to our car with a clump of jack fruit seedlings to show her appreciation.

We’ll try again next time.  IJM always shows up.


About nataliemma

This blog [infrequently] documented my work as a structural transformation design fellow with International Justice Mission's Uganda field office. I spent two months researching in Washington DC before deploying to Uganda to design structural recommendations in line with IJM's mission of providing improved access to and distribution of justice to the world's global poor through local public justice systems. I'm a Mizzou grad, St. Louis native, and MBA with five years of operations experience in finance.

2 responses »

  1. So where is the social… responsibility? Is there any type of judicial training for those who would become judges and have power? What’s the process followed to become a judge or magistrate? Are the appointed? Voted in? Are they able to be dismissed? How do we get justice if the distributors of it don’t care? Just question puking here. I know these are the same to what you have asked.

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