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UN Refugee Agency creates 'mobile' court to serve refugee settlement in Uganda

The government of Uganda and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] on Monday launched a 'mobile' court [UN News Centre report] intended to serve both the migrant population of the Nakivale settlement and nearby Ugandan nationals. The project is intended to provide quicker access to justice as well as a deterrent to crime in Nakivale, which is home to more than 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandan nationals. Without the new pilot court program, those seeking justice would otherwise have to travel over 30 miles to the nearest courthouse to have their claim heard. According to a statement [UNHCR statement] from Adrian Edwards, UNHCR spokesperson, "Our hope is that the mobile courts will speed the rate at which cases are heard, and serve to deter crime by bringing lawyers and a magistrate directly to both refugees and Ugandans in the settlement." This is the first such court to be created in Uganda, but similar courts have been established in refugee camps in Kenya which UNHCR believes has helped reduce criminal activity in the areas.

Uganda [JURIST news archive] has drawn international criticism lately regarding its human rights record. Last October Ugandan officials denied UN allegations [JURIST report] that Uganda had assisted rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Last June Uganda's government banned 38 NGOs accused of promoting gay rights [JURIST report]. Earlier that month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] warned [JURIST report] that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] still poses a threat to children in Uganda. Last March Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye [JURIST news archive] Besigye's last prosecution gained international attention. He was arrested in 2011 [JURIST report] for his involvement in the "Walk to Work" protests. Earlier that year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] Uganda's government to stop using what she called excessive force against Besigye and other protesters. Besigye is the leader of Uganda's most prominent opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change.

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