Investigative Journalism Leads to Creation of Corruption Taskforce in the Judiciary

The Uganda Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Bart Katureebe, has set up a six-member Taskforce headed by the Inspector of Courts, Ms Immaculate Busingye, to investigate allegations of corruption in the Judiciary.

The formation of the Taskforce is an aftermath of media reports by the Vision Group, which exposed acts of bribery and corruption tendencies in the courts of Uganda. The reports emanated from investigative journalism by the Vision Group as part of its ongoing project titled: “Promotion of Human Rights and Enhancing Access to Justice through Media Interventions”, funded by the DGF.

Through the investigations, the Vison Group intends to unearth blockages which prevent poor and vulnerable people from accessing justice. So far, the investigative coverage has uncovered a racket of court clerks, food vendors, police officers, state attorneys and prison officers who solicit for brides from desperate detained suspects in need of non-cash bail contrary to Article 23 (6) of the Constitution of Uganda which treats bail as a human right. This, among other cases, will be investigated by the Corruption Taskforce.

According to the press release issued by the Judiciary, the Taskforce will interface with the investigations team of Vision Group to understand the scope and purpose of their ongoing project on exposing corruption in the Judiciary; review the media recordings to identify implicated Judiciary staff; and invite identified staff to interface with the Team. The Taskforce will make a report on their findings with recommendations on the way forward to the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice has welcomed the media’s efforts to expose acts of bribery and corruption tendencies in the courts. He, however, has cautioned against sensationalizing the issue of corruption in the courts. The judiciary has also reiterated its commitment to ensuring that any court staff captured receiving a bribe will be dealt with in accordance with the law; and encouraged court users and the public to use the available fora to come out and give evidence for firm action to be taken against the errant court staff.

The project, supported by the DGF, seeks to strengthen the capacity of the most marginalized people to access justice and claim their rights. In addition, the DGF is also supporting other partners such as the Legal Aid Service Providers' Network in Uganda (LASPNET) to implement interventions aimed at strengthening effective performance of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS).  For example, as part of supporting the implementation of the JLOS Anti-Corruption Strategy 2012, LASPNET recently produced and launched an assessment report on the implementation of the strategy.  The report provides a yard-stick with useful information on the progress of implementation of the strategy, the positive aspects, and challenges encountered.