REACHING OUT TO THE VULNERABLE: A LIFE OF PRO BONO
By Elias Bwambale - @ElzBwambale
I have worked for the Legal Aid Project (LAP) of Uganda Law Society (ULS) since 2014 where I offer free legal services on a diverse range of both substantive and procedural aspects of the law to the vulnerable, indigent and marginalized persons in our communities. This ranges from legal advice to representation both in court and through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms such as mediation. In the few years that I have given legal aid services to the indigent, marginalized and vulnerable persons, I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. Indeed part of being a person is about helping others!
Uganda Law Society aims at increasing access to quality legal aid advisory and referral services for vulnerable people across the country, among others.
Work Under My Department
I currently work under the Luzira Clinic of LAP which spearheads the Prison Decongestion Program (PDP) at ULS. At this Clinic, we engage in legal representation of inmates where we secure bail and or acquittals for accused persons, prison sensitizations where inmates are enlightened on the basics of the criminal trial process, plea bargain where we enable convicts obtain lighter sentences for the offences committed, reconciliation where we encourage restoration of friendly relations between the accused persons and the affected victims and basic legal advice through one on one sessions where the inmates are given guidance on how to best go about their individual cases.
By the same token, Luzira Clinic handles cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) such as defilement, rape and domestic violence which are reported to the police and in court. In handling such cases, special attention is paid to the indigent, vulnerable and marginalized women and girls in our communities. This program is currently focused in the prisons of Kigo, Luzira (women wing, Kampala remand, upper and Murchison bay), Kitala and Kitalya. Luzira Clinic also conducts community sensitizations on SGBV and shares ‘simplified law’ booklets on land rights, children rights, succession law and domestic violence, among others.
An equally significant aspect of our work at Luzira Clinic is the assistance offered to Juveniles through the Juvenile Justice System (JJS) where the clinic specifically engages in resettlement of juveniles, besides the mainstream services of providing legal representation, legal advice, sensitizations, plea bargain and reconciliation. Our work with juveniles is to a larger extent focused on Naguru Remand Home in Kampala district.
Owing to the aforementioned interventions, in the year 2018, we reached out to 2,714 vulnerable, indigent and marginalized persons in various communities across Kampala district and of these; 152 were female; 2,562 were male; 144 were Juvenile and 110 were SGBV cases.
In a word, as we continue in the crusade of enhancing access to justice for the marginalized, indigent and vulnerable persons in our communities, let it be known that service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
PRISON DECONGESTION PROGRAM (PDP)
Prison sensitisation: Sensitization at Kampala Remand Home, Luzira Prisons in 2018
The writer is an Assistant Legal Officer,
Luzira Clinic (LAP) – Uganda Law Society