ASFU legal department was started in 2005 to ensure that victims of acid violence access justice. The department was further set up to lobby for a law to ensure restriction of the importation, distribution, sale and use of acid and also stringent punishment of perpetrators. ASFU provides legal aid through criminal case follow up, representing survivors in civil proceedings, monitoring acid crime investigations and facilitating witnesses to attend court hearings.
ASFU works with the community members and Uganda Police Force to ensure that cases of acid violence are reported, proper investigations are done and the perpetrator arrested. In addition, a police surgeon must be facilitated to examine the patient while in hospital.
The police surgeon fills a form called PF 3 which is used during court proceedings.
Case Follow Up
Case follow up is another important aspect in the survivor's life. Justice must be served and the perpetrator punished for his crime. Cases in Uganda take a long time before judgment is passed. Survivors and witnesses may not be able to report to court occasionally because they do not have transport to court. In majority of the cases, ASFU has met transport costs for the witnesses. Sometimes, the perpetrator who is on the loose will threaten the victims or witnesses hence hindering the court process. There have been instances where it is the relatives of the perpetrator doing the threatening. These continuous threats interfere with the rehabilitation process.
Cases Under Investigation
42 cases are still under investigations at different police stations in various parts of the country. ASFU has had a challenge following up cases in remote areas of the country due to the high transport costs incurred. To address this, ASFU is working with legal aid agencies based in heavily affected communities to follow up acid cases in the central, eastern and western region.
Other challenges that affect investigation include insufficient evidence due to the fact that most attacks take place at night in isolation as well as poor handling of exhibits.
Cases In Court
Currently, 22 acid criminal cases are under trial in different parts of the country. Some cases have dragged on for years because of constant adjournments resulting from absence of key witnesses, the judge or the prosecutor. ASFU is working with its partners to overcome these bottlenecks and ensure that acid victims access justice in a timely manner.
With the help of ASFU's lawyers, 15 acid criminal cases have been successfully concluded with the accused persons being sentenced to 3 to 25 years in prison.
Legal awareness is carried out to educate key stakeholders on the legal process in relation to acid violence. Awareness raising is done through police training, legal counseling, regional partners meetings and dissemination of court user's guide; a simplified handbook that outlines the legal steps to take in the event of an acid crime. The court users' guide has been translated in Luganda, the local language widely spoken by the majority of acid survivors.