A total of 54 trafficked Ugandans died abroad, an officer in charge of human trafficking at Entebbe International Airport disclosed Friday,14th January 2023 during a Court Open Day at Entebbe Chief Magistrates Court.
The Detective Assistant Inspector James Barya said most of those who died abroad were women and young men illegally taken out of the country with promises of getting well paying jobs.
Briefing the Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera about his department and its operations, Barya also disclosed that 1253 victims were intercepted in the process of being taken out illegally.
Justice Buteera was presiding over Entebbe Chief Magistrate Court Open Day, a day when court invites court users and members of the public for an interaction about its operations and hear their concerns.
Different stakeholders in Government service and civil society had stalls which Justice Buteera and members of the public visited to acquaint themselves with what each of them do.
The officer told the judge that one hundred sixty seven cases were recorded out of which sixty three were investigated.
Seventeen cases were taken to Court, of which sixteen ended in convictions and one case is pending.
He said 83 cases were shelved. The officer said most of the time the victims are unwilling to provide information, which frustrates progress of the cases.
Detective Assistant Inspector of Police Maxon Katuramu who is in charge of anti-drug trafficking reported that 2022 saw seventeen cases recorded of individuals trafficking illegal drugs out of or via Uganda and thirteen of these pleaded guilty.
Three are still pending in court.
In his speech Justice Buteera criticized the practice of Judicial officers harassing and mistreating court users, urging them to stop the practice in order to make courts user-friendly.
Some of them, he observed meted harsh punishments unnecessarily while others lacked common courtesy and public relations.
Chief Magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis had earlier on complained that the Entebbe station had limited office and court space, forcing two of the four magistrates to conduct court hearings from their chambers.
This Justice Buteera promised would be handled.
Charles Mukalazi, the LC III chairperson of Bussi Island complained of residents moving long distances to Entebbe to get justice, to which Justice Buteera assured a magistrate grade one had already been appointed to serve there.
The Local Government has already provided land for construction of court premises, which Justice Buteera urged other local governments to emulate to enable the judicial department adequately serve them.
He said Entebbe was being considered for setting up of a High Court.
Some of the court users complained of their cases being disposed off without their knowledge to which the Deputy Chief Justice emphasized judicial officers must always make the next hearing date clear to the litigants.
He said the Judiciary would further strengthen inspection to address delays and inefficiencies. Many of the complaints pertained to land disputes.
To address case backlog, Buteera said they should always try the alternative dispute resolution before going for lengthy litigation.
Other solutions proposed included taking claims below ten million shillings to the Small Claims Court and those on criminal charges to be encouraged to bargain with the state for smaller sentences in exchange for pleading guilty.
A moot court was acted to show the public how plea bargain works in practice.
He urged magistrates to prioritize cases on the basis of first come first serve while always giving consideration to vulnerable groups like children, the disabled, elderly, sick and widows.
Present at the function was Justices Alex Mackay Ajiji, deputy head of the High Court Criminal Division and Senior Presidential Advisor Amos Ngoloobe who is also retired deputy director of criminal prosecutions.
Entebbe Chief Magistrate Court last held the event in 2018.