Non-state Legal Aid Service Providers Providers Petition -Speaker
Nonstate legal aid service providers led by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network have today petitioned the speaker of parliament over the delayed Legal Aid Policy which has remained stuck in the cabinet for eight years. NGOs have also developed a draft for the Legal Aid Bill and asked parliament to allow the bill to be moved by a private member after the government foiled it.
They claim the government will save over 26bn shillings if vulnerable people access free legal services.
According to the 2016 survey report of The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law 80% of Ugandans cannot afford the services of private advocates due to poverty constraints whereas the available non-state legal aid actors are urban project based serving a small percentage of Ugandans. This has not only frustrated the dispensation of justice but also frustrated legal aid service providers. Today a delegation of officials from Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) petitioned the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga over the delayed Legal aid bill which has stalled in the cabinet since 2012.
They also handed her a copy of the Draft Legal Aid Policy
Legal aid service providers assured parliament that they have worked out on the issue of financial implication which has been a concern of the government claiming they have conducted a cost-benefit analysis and came to a conclusion that the provision of legal aid by the government will save the government 26.8bn which is spent annually on feeding prisoners on remand who would not be in cells if they had legal services. They also emphasized that the European Union is ready to fund a government legal aid fund for four years once it’s put in place.
The NGO which offers free legal services including, FIDA, Uganda Law Society, Justice Centers Uganda, Paralegal Advisory Services, Muslim Lawyers for Justice and Law, Christian Lawyers, LAPSNET among others narrated to the speaker Kadaga on how they struggle to render essential legal aid amidst funding shortages. They rallied her to support the expedition of the bill to ensure vulnerable Ugandans access justice.
The Gulu municipality member of parliament Lyandro Komakech who led the delegation asked the speaker of parliament to grant him leave next week to prepare a draft for the Legal Aid Bill which he wants to move as a private member.
Kadaga expressed disappointments with the government for failing to prioritize social issues that affect the majority of Ugandans. She pledged support for the bill and promised to allow Hon Komakech space on the order paper next week when parliament resumes moving the private member’s bill.
Currently, the constitution of Uganda provides for government legal aid to only persons charged with a criminal offense which carries a sentence of death or life imprisonment, which leaves petty offenders to suffer.