Our Mandate

To strengthen coordination and networking of LASPs, harmonisation and standardisation of legal aid service provision by the different service providers, lobbying and advocacy to facilitate a favourable legal and policy environment.

LASPNET RAPID RESPONSE LAWYERS INNOVATE AROUND BICYCLE LAWYERING DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

Since March 2021, the world has been grappling with COVID 19 which has posed unprecedented disruptions to the socio-economic and political fabric of many global economies. Uganda in particular tasted the first wave and is currently undergoing through the second wave of COVID 19

The virus has antagonised human nature and exposed the country’s weak health and social protection systems. In that regard, according to statistics from Ministry of Health, over 1,023 people have lost their lives to COVID out of 79,000 cases registered.

In a bid to avert the spread of COVID 19, the government imposed the first lockdown in March 2020. This was complemented by a series of Presidential directives that included bans and restrictions on public movement, mass gatherings closure of schools and places of worship, among others.

The previous and current lockdown was also characterized by closure of institutions such as courts and denying recognition of Legal Aid Service Providers and lawyers as essential service providers is hindering access to justice. It’s safe to conclude that the COVID 19 pandemic has had a chilling effect on access to justice and human rights. Specifically, it has undermined

the right to fair trial and speedy hearing as enshrined under Article 28 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. This has been evidenced by the hundreds of Ugandans arbitrarily arrested and currently languishing in prison for violation of prerogative orders. The suspension of legal services has exacerbated access to justice for victims of rights violations, majority of whom have been arraigned in courts of law in the absence of their lawyers to secure them bail as their constitutional right.

In her paper titled “An Overview of the Prison as a Detention Facility” Aliyo Naatukunda from Uganda Prisons Services mentions that as at June 2021 the total detainee’s population was 62,607 out of which 31,978 are remands. The paper reveals further that over 5,000 people were reported to have been arrested for violation of the Presidential directives on COVID 19. Unfortunately, all those inmates remain yearning for justice which cannot be served because lawyers are locked out from following incidents of violations.

In August 2020, LASPNET with support from DGF, opted to innovatively introduce the concept of Bicycle Lawyering to ease the mobility of Rapid Response lawyers to continue with the provision of legal services to the poor and vulnerable amidst the lockdown. Under the intervention, bicycles were given out lawyers and paralegals. These bicycles have since enabled Rapid Response Lawyers to monitor human rights violations and ensure the victims are support quick legal representation.

Since the outstanding challenge that Rapid Response Lawyers are faced with during lockdowns is access to courts, police stations and to their clients, LASPNET has revamped the Bicycle Lawyering concept. To address the challenge of suspension of legal services, LASPNET has encouraged its rapid response lawyers and paralegals to utilize their bicycles to intervene and offer legal remedy to where rights violations are occasioned.

One of the most active Rapid Response Lawyers Mr. Macho Patrick explains how he uses bicycles to reach out to his clients. “This is what it means to work in lockdown to make sure that your clients’ rights are being respected ….so I urge all my dear lawyer colleagues to work hard to see that they really help the vulnerable and the poor access justice in this lockdown “I have just arrived at Nabweru police station using a bicycle to attend to a client who is being arrested last night during curfew hours.

 

 

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