Tuesday, 8 July 2014


 Human rights violations is wide spread across many countries, and to a great extent, this is an impediment to development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  This threatens the rights and well-being of humans and can only be eliminated by promoting respect and observance of human rights, and ensuring that the victims of human rights violations receive redress/ justice. Available programme data indicates that a significant number of individuals suffer from violence in silence with little or no recourse to justice, care or support.  

Fear, shame and stigma among others have often prevented human rights victims especially women and children from seeking assistance or taking action against perpetrators – husbands, relatives and friends among others. In most situations, perpetrators evade prosecution due to a combination of weak laws and judicial processes that fail to hold them accountable; social and political disorder; and lack of impartiality or functioning of judiciary or police. This impunity sends a message that abuse of human rights is partly acceptable or the norm reinforces inequalities as well as being a denial of justice[1].
The word referral means to recommend someone to consult the professional person referred to. It can also mean the act of forwarding someone to an appropriate person or institution for help. The referral system has among others proven an effective model in addressing limited access to justice by the human rights victims.  In this case, cases of human rights abuses are reported to the responsible authorities for further action depending on the gravity of the case to ensure justice is granted. 

This process is facilitated and or guided by community resource persons commonly referred to as paralegals, volunteers, reflect facilitators, human rights activists or watch dogs. Community resources persons are individuals identified within communities and trained on human rights; the different types, forms of abuses, reporting and redress. These in turn support the community to know their rights, where and how to report cases of human rights violation. The rationale for developing and using referral systems is to promote a holistic approach to supporting victims of violence through a range of services including physical safety and shelter, legal, health and social services, and psychosocial counseling. They may also include links to services that further the victim’s economic empowerment.

In the bid to address this challenge of limited access to justice, Independent Development Fund (IDF) through its Grantees identified, and supported community based resource persons that provide (d) legal support, referrals and follow up rights violations for redress especially for the poor and marginalized populations (children, women, widows and the elderly, juveniles and other vulnerable groups) in the different project areas.  Additionally, the funded projects also support and work with the local leaders, Police, Prison Officers and judiciary to provide legal support and guidance on the operation and functionality of the justice system.
 How it works:The resource persons educate/sensitize the community on their human rights, forms of rights abuses and how to deal with the abuses/violations; that is, how and where to report. The victims in return share their ordeals with the community resource persons who record them and later provide advice and guidance on where to report depending on the violation. They then support the victims to file their cases with the respective concerned authorities and in most cases follow up the cases until a logical conclusion is reached.
For example IDF supported Grantees from different project locations referred 9841cases of human rights violations to authorities during the period July 2013 to May 2014.
Referrals per quarter for the period July 2013/ May 2014[2]
Precisely, the IDF supported projects have worked to increase access to justice and observance of the rights of women, children and vulnerable persons in conflict with the law. This was a result of the increased civic awareness and consciousness on the existing laws and procedures of accessing justice and rights protection for human rights abused victims. This has further contributed to observance of the rights of the poor and vulnerable persons, including decongestion of prisons and children in remand homes. 

IDF Grantees that greatly contributed to this are World Voices (WVU), Guu Foundation Community Based Rehabilitation (GUFO), Uganda Community Based Association For Child Welfare (UCOBAC), Community Awareness And Response On Aids (CARA), Companionship Of Works Association (COWA), Hope after Rape (HAR), African Prisons Project (APP), Gulu Women Economic Development & Globalisation (GWED-G), Africa International Christian Ministry (AICM) and Youth And Women In Action (YAWIA).

In Lira, GUFO working with Reflect Facilitators in the three hard pressed sub-counties of Amach, Aromo and Ogur were able to address 34 land conflicts and violent evictions. As a result the previously affected women are in position to testify to ownership of the land.

CARA, another IDF Grantee also notes that as per the baseline findings at the start of the Human rights project in 2011, people were ignorant on the channels of reporting or handling human rights violations; i.e only 10 cases of women rights violations had been reported in a period of 3 months, however by the end of the project Arpil 2014 there was an increase in the number of cases reported on human rights violations. Graph representing the trend in reporting of cases of violence against women
 At least 80% of the community members and the children had known where, how and when to report what conflict. Through capacity enhancement of police and prisons on the operation and functionality of the justice system, IDF has noted an increase in the number of prisoners getting bail in Apac and Oyam prisons, thus leading to the prisons getting decongested.

The IDF Grantee (APP) implementing the “Promotion of the rights of access to justice and healthcare of prisoners in Oyam and Apac districts” project documented a total 314 (285 Males and 29 females) inmates that had secured Bail, had their cases dismissed or given community service in the 8 prisons. They also succeeded in securing sureties for 265 inmates between December 2013 and April 2014.

In the case of the juvenile offenders, COWA implementing the “Promotion of child rights through advocacy, legal support and education” project in Wakiso district has contributed to access to justice through the collaboration with the remand homes and the community where the juveniles come from. Approximately 32 juveniles (30Males, 2 females) have been helped out of the Naguru remand home between March and April 2014.
                            Distribution of referrals per thematic focus
Conclusively, the use of the referral model has contributed to the increase of civic awareness on human rights and channels of reporting human rights violations, which to a great extent has led to the reduction in the number of human rights violation cases. This suggests that the use of the referral model has the potential to increase access to justice, respect, fulfillment and observance of human rights particularly at the community level justice, respect, fulfillment and observance of human rights has increased.

[1] Community of Practice in Building Referral Systems for Women Victims of Violence, Mary Jennings, May 2010.
[2] This information is generated from the grantee monthly data returns and quarterly progress reports to IDF.