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CGJ Student Intern Post #2 from Moriah Schmidt

By August 13, 2016December 16th, 2019DPP, Internship Grant Program, Uganda
I am currently in Kampala, Uganda, working as an intern in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions office headquarters.

Uganda is a country that has struggled with unrest in the past but currently has a generally stable government. While Uganda does share some similarities with laws in the United States, I have observed many differences between the two in the time that I’ve been here.

For instance, the police force works much differently than the police in the United States. With all the attention on the United States police force right now, it has been helpful to get a different perspective from a developing country’s standpoint. First, the government in Uganda has a police force but it is not able to adequately compensate the police for their level of work. Many times, the only way victims of crimes can see the perpetrator caught is if they pay the police themselves. Imagine that you are the victim of a robbery, rape, assault, or other crime and you go to the police for help. In order to get them to arrest the person, they insist on money for gas and their services. If you are like most Ugandans, who don’t have extra money lying around for little things like catching criminals, your chances of justice have just gone out the window.

I heard from a person who had to pay the police to arrest someone who had robbed him and even delivered the robber to the police, not just once, but four different times – and the person still got released from prison because of bribery, without a trial.

Corruption is prevalent in Uganda. Even if someone is guilty and caught, they may be released due to bribes that find their way into many courts and police stations. One of the root causes to this problem is that everyone is underpaid; prosecutors, police, even judges, can fall prey to the temptation to accept money from the accused or family of the accused.

Even when police officers are ready and willing to help catch a person and charge him or her with an offense, the problems do not stop there. The investigation process needs a lot of work, and most trials are conducted using mostly hearsay evidence from witnesses. This presents more problems because the witnesses have to be convinced to come to trial (for free) and then when they are able to get the witnesses there, the trial can be adjourned several times for various reasons, including the absence of a lawyer.

I take for granted the ability to call the police when something goes wrong and have them show up immediately. I expect them to arrest who they need to arrest without accepting money from me for their work. Although the police are not perfect, the U.S. is blessed to have them, and to have an adequate system to report the police to when corruption exists or an injustice occurs within the police force. That is something that many countries, including Uganda, do not have.
I was able to attend a conference on preventing and prosecuting torture directed towards prosecutors and lawyers, training them in how to respond to torture allegations. The most common perpetrators of torture methods are the police, and torture victims can range from criminals to innocent townspeople.

Of course the entire police force in Uganda is not corrupt, but it does have a bad reputation so that some people will not even report crimes to the police, because they see it as futile. Although the U.S. is not perfect in any way – there is always something we can be doing better – it does us well to take a step back and be thankful for what we do have, as well as learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. It has been a privilege to work in Uganda and learn more of their legal system. I know the work I am doing in law school can make a big difference in assisting countries like Uganda who are earnestly trying to better their legal system and effectively pursue justice.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.