Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza

Ugandian lawyer, Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda

Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza is a Ugandan lawyer, academic and judge, who has served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, since 2015. She studied at Gayaza High School in the 1970s and law at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws. She also holds a Diploma in Legal Practice, awarded by the Law Development Centre, also in Kampala.

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  • I believe freedom of expression is a human right just like other rights and I think every judicial officer at every level needs training in human rights, and most certainly on freedom of expression, because it is critical to interpret law within a human rights perspective. We must also remember that freedom of expression is important for democracy, good governance and the rule of law and that these three are really the bedrock of development.
    • [1] Speaking on the importance of training members of the judiciary on freedom of expression in human rights
  • When we talk about the need to protect journalists, both men and women must be protected. But there is no doubt that women journalists are more vulnerable to certain kinds of violations of rights which perhaps men are not as vulnerable to. It is important to recognize that, when discussing the protection of rights, the groups we talk about are not homogenous. This is the reason why we must talk about violence against women specifically when discussing violence against journalists. In other words actors interested in protecting the human rights of journalists must put on a gender lense and mainstream gender into their work.
    • [2] Speaking on her view on the specific threats faced by women journalists and how they affect freedom of expression
  • I think the African human rights regime has taken up this issue, which is illustrated in the way the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has expounded on the right to access to information as a tool for socio-economic development. This will have a trickle-down effect as we are dealing with the issues at the regional level. However, it is also important to deal with these issues at the national level through institutions that we all ascribe to, such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, because that jurisprudence cannot be questioned by Member States. I also think that, the fact that social media today has thrived, really helps spreading the information on violations out there.
    • [3] Speaking on what the future holds for freedom of expression and safety of journalists in the African legal framework
  • I know that these inequalities are reproduced in the family, the community and they are also reproduced in the workplace where we find ourselves as lawyers. Women lawyers can bring about substantive changes not only in the practice of the law, but in the law itself
    • [4] Speaking on the duty of women lawyers to protect women when talking about the law in the promotion of gender justice and ending inequality between women and men.
  • One of the things I realised is that academic work, scholarly work or legal scholarship, is actually an advantage to a person because we are talking about discussing principles of law, especially when you are serving in the highest court, the court which has the last say in dispute resolution.
    • [5] Speaking on how academic experience helps ground her work.

Justice Tibatemwa encouraging female lawyers to aspire for higher positions

  • [6]We must position women. The feminization of the legal profession will have meaning only if women are positioned in high levels of this practice. Because this is where decisions are made.
  • [7]We must be where decisions are made. Of course we know that the legal profession is wide. And a young generation should be aware that there is a possibility that what they are engaged in today, may not be what they will be engaged in decades ahead.

Justice Tibatemwa speaks on dealing with rape as a social issue not just a legal issue in Uganda

  • [8]There is a need to change the social not just the legal understandings of rape in Uganda. Like with any other social phenomena, crime can only be understood by interrogating the broad social context within which it occurs. To understand issues of sexuality and sexual encounters between men and women, it is crucial that the discussion is placed within the discourse of gender in Uganda’s patriarchal society.
  • [9]Reducing crime must be preceded by interrogating society’s views on the crime in question. Knowing what society considers acceptable behaviour may explain the prevalence of an offence.
  • [10] It only covers sexual assaults of women and does not recognise men as possible victims. It is concerned with the absence of consent either because force was used or because the consent was a result of fraud and falsehood. Prosecutors must also deal with the issue of the state of mind of the accused. If there is no mental fault, it is not regarded as rape. Honest belief in consent is enough to free the accused from criminal liability even if that belief might seem unreasonable.

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