30 November 2018
When the team first started working on this case they were told by a senior official that the evidence was not going to be strong enough to secure a conviction. The IJM team was convinced of the strength of the case, and worked alongside police and community leaders to collect additional evidence, follow up on files, and provide care and support to the survivor and her family.
Even with all the work done to build a strong case, the team began to fear that they would never win for a different reason. Since IJM launched a pilot project to fight sexual violence against children in Western Uganda in September 2017, none of the cases of sexual violence against children that IJM had supported in Kamwenge district had proceeded to trial.
One of the most significant roadblocks to concluding cases from Kamwenge district in court was that the district was so remote that it had no High Court. To hear cases from these rural areas, the courts schedule all criminal trials during a specific session in order to reduce costs of transporting witnesses the long distance to court. Sessions may only be held a few times a year in the High Court covering ten or more separate districts, creating significant backlog. By the time cases are heard, child survivors and family members may struggle to testify with the same accuracy and effectiveness, and many witnesses do not have the immediate means to reach the court before being reimbursed for travel costs.
To address this challenge, IJM sponsored a 10-day High Court criminal session to be held in one of the remote districts where witnesses struggled to make the long journey to court. This ‘mobile court’ heard 17 cases in Kamwenge, resulting in 12 convictions with sentences ranging from 4-20 years. The success of this mobile court session proves that there is hope for effectively prosecuting cases of sexual violence against children in Western Uganda.
International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more