New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Judiciaries Asked to Reconcile Squabbling Parties

Judiciaries in the Commonwealth have been asked to reconcile squabbling parties rather than allow hostile legal battles that would increase enmity and chances of revenge.

The call was made by Trinidad and Tobago High Court judge Vashist Kokaram at the just-concluded 16th Triennial Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) Conference held at the Commonwealth Speke Resort in the city suburb of Munyonyo.

Presenting a paper 'How Can we Improve the Quality of Justice?', Justice Kokaram said the essence of alternative dispute resolution(ADR) in the pursuit of justice should be real and people centered rather than intimidating.

"In promotion of ADR, we are promoting self-worth, self-determination and creativity. Civil procedure in court may unwittingly spoil the peace it was meant to preserve," Kokaram said.

He said judges and magistrates should relentlessly push for reconciliation, and only allow warring parties to battle as a last resort in the event that ADR fails.

The judge noted that much interest in ADR in jurisdictions around the world has grown out of failure of civil procedure, with verdicts propelling rifts between parties even deeper. ADR refers to the settling disputes by means other than litigation.

Kokaram envisaged a futuristic judiciary that is more receptive and a unification centre that promotes a win-win situation rather than one that is divisive.

"Judiciary of the future will be regarded as peace centres and not battle grounds or labyrinths accessible by the few," Kokaram stated.

On Friday, Justice John Vertes, also a professor of law from Canada, was unanimously elected CMJA president. He succeeded Justice Norma Wade-Miller of Bermuda.

Uganda's judiciary hosted the conference, as part of the activities to mark 50 years of independence. It was organised under the theme "Justice for Everyone: Myth or Reality?"

The conference that officially closed on Friday, was attended by over 300 judicial officers, including judges and magistrates from the 54 Commonwealth countries and 10 dependent territories. The delegates deliberated on the current topical issues globally faced by the judiciary.

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