Uganda: Fort Portal Court Launches Audio-Visual Link Project

By Anthony Wesaka

In January, 15-year-old Purity Atim, a resident of Fort Portal Town, was returning home from church prayers.

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The Primary Five pupil on her way met Patrick Murungi, her neighbour, who asked her to accompany him to his house.

Upon reaching his house, Murungi dragged her to his bed, forcibly undressed her and defiled her.

Atim said her defiler assured her that the act would improve her studies.

The above testimony by Atim was the maiden test case before Fort Portal court on Wednesday as the Judiciary launched the audio-visual link programme aimed at protecting children from secondary trauma of facing their tormentors in court.

Under this arrangement, children who are victims of sexual violence and other forms of violence, sit in a separate and friendly room far from the traditional court room where their suspected tormentors are and freely testify against them by the help of installed cameras and other gadgets in the court room.

Fort Portal Court became the third court in the country after Kampala and Mbale to use the project, whose core purpose is to improve children justice in the country.

Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine used the launch to caution lawyers in private practice not to challenge this programme before the Constitutional Court just in case there are some gaps.

Justice Bamwine argued that whereas the programme may have some gaps, lawyers in private practice should work with the Judiciary to rectify them.

“Lawyers in private practice may want to challenge this programme before courts of law. We are appealing to them that this is an innovation; if it has any shortfalls, let’s work on that,” he said.

“Other civilised countries in the world have embraced it. Ugandans can also do that and to do so, we have to be encouraged by the Bar and the public…,” he added.

Mr Philip Randim, a representative from UNICEF, one of the partners in establishing the innovation, said the project will help to facilitate speedy trial of cases involving children and that the same will address the delays in taking evidence.

About project

A person can give evidence using audio-video link technology where proceedings relate to sexual or violent offences, for security reasons, for safety of a witness, when a witness lives outside Uganda, where it is inconvenient for the party to give evidence in open court, for economic and health reasons.

Source: allafrica.com

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