“I am going to continue with my paralegal work”
John Bosco Oryem, an African Prisons Project trained paralegal was arrested in the year 2009. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment at Upper in Luzira prison, Kampala, Uganda. As an inmate, Oryem had always had a dream of becoming a lawyer.
On arrival at Luzira, he realised that he needed to get an education to fulfill his dream. He approached the headmaster of the secondary school inside prison who advised him on the year he could join in. He joined the secondary school that is established inside Luzira prison and then sat for his examinations with Uganda National Examination (UNEB), an annual examination that is nationally carried out by all secondary school students in Uganda both at ordinary and advanced level.
In his own words, Oryem said the need to study law was because of his desire to be able to defend the under-privileged population in the courts of law.
“My desire was to equip myself with the relevant legal knowledge and skills to enable me contribute towards justice and order in Uganda and the world at large. I was equally overwhelmed by the need to defend the underprivileged because my heart bleeds seeing such categories being imprisoned without legal representation,” he said.
Starting Legal Education
It was with his background and desire that Oryem signed up for the APP University of London (UoL) long-distance learning programme, offering legal studies to pursue his Bachelors in Law from Luzira. His excellent academic journey could not be muted while in prison. He became a UoL student and also received paralegal training to help him practice what he studies and also build on his legal exposure to cases while still in prison.
Oryem is one of the inmates who recently participated in the 28th African Human Rights Moot Competition Participation-in-human-rights-competition . The moot that was held from 1st -6th July 2019 also simultaneously built on the inmates’ potential in following legal procedures.
In his reflection on the moot, he said the competition had stirred up not only his love and passion for the legal profession but rather strengthened his strive to one day become a human rights lawyer.
Life as a Paralegal in Prison
Oryem has worked as an APP trained Auxiliary Paralegal at Upper Prison in Luzira. He says he has worked on over 40 cases at the legal clinic. He promises to continue with the journey of representing and helping out fellow inmates and marginalized communities. In his time as a paralegal, Oryem has processed the Memorandums of Appeals for over 20 of his fellow inmates.
Fair justice system
Seth Rukundo, the state lawyer who represented Oryem, when approached after the judgement last week could not suppress his joy. The announcement by the registrar when the conviction was quashed left him delightful with pride in the justice system. He said, “We the Court of Appeal feel that was a harsh punishment to imprison him for nine years.” He also added, “Oryem has an obligation to his community in terms of the legal knowledge he has attained while in prison.”
The Justice Changemaker Programme
APP supports both prisoners and prison staff across prisons in Kenya and Uganda through our Justice Changemaker Programme. Together, the students study law with support from volunteers and teaching staff from APP.
“I am going to continue with my paralegal work. I have two case files that I have been working on while in prison; I intend to carry on with the legal procedures of these cases.”
For Oryem, his goal of practicing law is an endless journey which he is undertaking. He says he has future prospects of establishing a legal aid clinic in different prisons and also becoming a lecturer. He hopes to graduate in October 2020 and join Law Development Centre(LDC) to be able to qualify as a practicing human rights lawyer in Uganda.
Oryem is currently back to his family members in Gulu, Northern Uganda. When the news reached them, the anxiety and praises to the Almighty kept resounding on the fateful day of his release. Oryem’s relative testified that she had lost hope in her brother’s case. She thanked APP for the services they have rendered to Oryem and commended them for the legal aid they are giving to prisoners.