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Denis Odota

LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, University College Cork

Denis works with Justice Centres Uganda in Kampala. He received a fellowship award in 2017-18 to study on the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy at University College Cork.

Personally, I find the LLM programme very empowering, with modules like information rights law offering knowledge and skills for human rights defenders to access information within the purview of public bodies.

I’m currently pursuing an LLM in International Human Rights and Public Policy in University College Cork (UCC). Legal Aid is premised on the right to a fair hearing guaranteed under International Human Rights Law and through the LLM programme at UCC, I’m gaining a deeper insight into the law and practice of Human Rights. Before I came to Ireland I was working as a Programme Manager at Justice Centres Uganda (JCU) providing free legal services to the indigent. The services included legal awareness creation in rural and peri-urban communities, dispute resolution through mediation and litigation, and advocacy for policy and legal reform in the legal aid sub sector. Irish Aid is one of the key contributors to the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) in Uganda which funds over 90 percent of JCU’s access to justice activities.

Strategically, the knowledge that I am acquiring through my studies in UCC will help me to articulate human rights issues from a more informed perspective and add my voice to those already demanding legal aid policy and legal reform in Uganda. Operationally, the skills acquired, for instance from the practical Human Rights in Practice (clinic) module will help me to design and / or implement JCU projects better.  A favourable policy will obligate the government in Uganda to extend legal aid services to rural communities and encourage non-state actors to take up legal aid service provision. The specialisation will go a long way in improving the quality of and trust in legal aid services which has hitherto been thought of as a last resort option for those who cannot afford quality lawyers. Furthermore, as an informed member of my own community, I will be able to monitor and hold my leaders accountable in matters pertaining human rights. Furthermore,

My dissertation will look at the role of legal information/awareness in preventing human rights violations. During my work, I learned that most of the legal challenges faced in the target communities such as property rights, domestic disputes etc. could have been avoided if only the people had the right information. I want to understand how best legal information can be used as a tool to prevent human rights violations.

Beyond the professional knowledge and skills, I hope to learn more about the institutions behind the success of the Irish legal system and where possible use aspects of it to improve systems back home. I hope to make friends and create a network of like-minded individuals that I can rely on even post studies. I hope to continue developing myself by pursuing further studies in my field and to contribute to the development of the human rights discourse in Uganda both as a practitioner and an academic.