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Intern Update, 7/16/12 (Greg Lush)

Gregory Lush, 3L

Peace and Reconciliation Project 
Rule of Law Development

This week has been an interesting one in Uganda.  We are working at the Justice Centres of Uganda, which is similar to our legal aid offices in America.  The Justice Centre takes indigent clients in criminal and civil matters, but its main focus is on mediation.  If an indigent client comes to them in need of legal assistance, the case will be evaluated and the mediation process will begin. 
Our week started out by being given several case files to evaluate.  The cases all involved land disputes, usually between family members.  We were told to evaluate the testimonies of witnesses and the parties, and come to a conclusion based on the facts.  We did this and our supervisor decided to use our opinion when he drafted his pleadings.  We were mostly ignorant about Ugandan land law, so we were later told to apply the appropriate legislation, such as the Local Council Courts Act, the Succession Act, and the Land Act.  This was a good learning experience in both Ugandan law and culture.
We also went to the Central Police Headquarters in Lira, where we learned about Ugandan criminal procedure.  An interesting fact: Ugandan police hold warrant cards, which allow them to enter houses to search for suspects and arrest them without the need to get permission from a neutral magistrate.  We also went to the Central Prison, where men and women are kept in separate wings.  Our supervisor at the Justice Centre took us into the general population of the women’s wing, where we sat in a room with about sixty women who were convicted or awaiting their trial.  Our supervisor answered some legal questions from the women for a couple hours, and gave them information so they could get free legal help from the Justice Centre. 
The week ended by going into the field and witnessing mediations.  There were two land disputes that had arisen among families, and the Justice Centre had been called to assist.  The sides to the dispute sat down together under a shady tree in the company of chickens, cows, and goats, then they told their stories and came to an agreement under the guidance of the Justice Centre.  The land was demarcated by planting small trees along the new boundaries while a photographer took pictures to record the event.  We drafted the final contract, which was hand-written and listed the party names and the details of the new agreement.  The work week ended by driving out of the brush, trying in vain to avoid the mud puddles that had overtaken the road, and trying not to get our vehicle stuck on the way home.  

          – Gregory Lush, 7/16/12