On Friday 25th January 2019, the High Court in Kampala passed a landmark judgement in which it directed the Government of Uganda to develop comprehensive guidelines to govern land evictions.
The long awaited judgement is an outcome of a protracted court trial on a public interest litigation case filed in the High Court by the Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL) in June 2016, asking the court to compel the government to avail basic guidelines on all land evictions and displacements. This would ensure the protection and promotion of various individual rights as owners or occupiers with a legally protected interest before, during and after the evictions.
NETPIL’s intervention followed a string of controversial land evictions that affected hundreds of people with total disregard for their rights as individuals who were in occupancy; and a failure to heed to international standards before, during and after the land evictions. According to NETIPIL, the absence of established domestic guidelines or standards to guide evictions in Uganda is largely responsible for the above violations.
In his ruling, Justice Musa Ssekaana concurred with the petitioners that Uganda lacks streamlined guidelines on evictions; and this indeed occasioned a number of human rights violations including amongst others the right to life. The judge further concurred that the State had failed in its constitutional mandate to protect and fulfill the rights of citizens by not availing Ugandans with land eviction guidelines.
The judge, therefore, directed that Government should come up with eviction guidelines within 7 months through a consultative and participatory process, and should also come up with a legally binding law on procedure for land evictions that is in line with national and international human rights standards.
NETPIL is an umbrella organisation established by the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) at the School of Law, Makerere University to bring together lawyers with a commitment to engage in public interest litigation to address social justice needs, especially for the vulnerable and marginalised persons. Over the years, the DGF has supported PILAC with funds to promote public interest lawyering in Uganda and to use legal education and training of students to promote access to justice.