Last updated: 31 august, 2010 - 14:10 GMT

The Legal World

Brian King meets lawyers as they battle to achieve justice and defend human rights - often in the face of overwhelming legal and political opposition.

These are the stories of local lawyers, sometimes helped by international agencies, grappling with issues of immense importance for the individuals concerned, but which also have serious national and international implications.

Part One

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Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

Thousands of people of Haitian descent are suffering systematic discrimination by authorities in the Dominican Republic it is claimed.

Denied official recognition of their nationality, they are unable to attend school, vote, travel, get married, register the birth of their children or even access the judicial system.

Recent government legislation has meant these people - including schoolteachers, lawyers, doctors and students - have become "functionally stateless".

Brian King meets the local lawyers who - with international support - are fighting individual cases of discrimination at the same time as tackling government policy in test cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

This programme follows lawyers as they meet with clients of Haitian descent, accessing the strength of their cases, going with them to the Registry Office to apply for new ID cards, where officials query their Haitian-sounding names - then turn them away.

He also finds out how the lawyers prepare to fight cases in court, documenting the hardships and injustices suffered by their clients and their families as a result of being denied the right to citizenship.

First broadcast on 31 August 2010

Part Two

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Pre-trial Detention in Uganda

The Ugandan justice system - as in other African countries - is in chaos.

A mixture of under-funding, a shortage of judges, incompetence and corruption has resulted in countless numbers of prisoners being left to rot, and even die in jail before their cases come to court.

Godfrey had been involved in a land dispute with a neighbour who accused him of raping his daughter.

Although he suffered from motor-neuron disease, Godfrey was held in Luzira Prison near Kampala for three years awaiting trial.

His lawyers eventually managed to get him released on bail, but only a couple of days before he died.

Godfrey was just one of nearly 20,000 prisoners being held on remand in Ugandan jails, many for three years or more.

Another man - held on remand for eight and a half months for stealing a cassava - was eventually given a six week sentence but his time spent in prison was not taken into account.

This programme joins the lawyers trying to get justice and freedom for prisoners in Luzira Prison, following them as they gather evidence, work with prisoners' families, tackle prison authorities and meet their clients in jail. We also enter the courtroom itself, as applications for bail are made.

Brian King also hears from sympathetic magistrates and judges, and seeks to challenge the head of the Ugandan Prison Service, Dr Johnson Byabasaija and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Richard Butera.

First broadcast on 6 September 2010

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