The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions-ODPP has pleaded with Parliament to urgently enact the Witness Protection Law to address gaps in the criminal justice administration.
John Baptist Asiimwe, the Deputy DPP resounded the call on Monday while interfacing with Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights on the state of human rights in the country spanning January 2020 – January 2022.
Asiimwe told the MPs that unlike her neighbours, Uganda continues to grapple with lack of a witness protection law which consequently affects the administration of criminal justice.
He also pointed out that the handling and prosecution of cases was constrained by the lockdown restrictions on movement, and numbers of staff allowed at duty stations following the pandemic under the period under review.
Asiimwe explained that DPP has been prosecuting some cases through ad hoc measures and where possible, used rules under the International Crimes Division to dispense justice to victims but have not been adequate.
But Francis Zaake, the Mityana Municipality MP accused the DPP of delaying justice, arguing that after taking over some cases, it fails to adduce sufficient evidence even after sanctioning the files.
Zaake’s submission was augmented by Simon Peter Opolot, the Kanyum County MP in Kumi district who tasked the DPP to produce a register of cases relating to human rights violations and provide a status report.
However, the Committee chairperson Fox Odoi Oywelowo, also the West Budama North County legislator said basing on the DPP’s recommendation, they will initiate the Bill under Rule 59 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
Several other agencies including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) among others have in recent past called on Parliament to expeditiously enact the Witness Protection Bill, 2015.
The Witness Protection Bill which is still in draft form, seeks to establish a Witness Protection Agency and a national Witness Protection Programme to provide protection and safety of a witness in proceedings, to testify and give evidence during proceedings.
Notably, allegations of increased violation of human rights started with the nationwide lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic spanning March 2020. There were several cases reported against law enforcement agencies for violent enforcement of the presidential directives to curb the spread of the virus.
This was followed by the election period that started at the time of primary elections of political parties held between July – September 2020 to elect flag bearers who would later contest in the general elections of January 2021.