By: KELLI L. ROSS
Justice Mike Chibita, Ugandan Director of Public Prosecutions, recently named Rachel Bikhole, Principal State Attorney, the Coordinator of Human Trafficking Cases in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). In this role, Bikhole will coordinate and supervise all human trafficking cases in Uganda.
“I chose Rachel as a focal person for trafficking in persons (TIP) cases because: (1) she is a Principle State Attorney, which makes her a very senior officer in the office of the Department of Public Prosecutions; (2) she has handled several TIP cases, including internal and cross border, as well as some of the most complicated ones, so she has the relevant experience; and (3) she is a member of the International Crimes Division of the ODPP, which is one of the divisions responsible for handling TIP cases,” Chibita said. “All these credentials along with her abilities made her the right person for the role.”
The Coordinator will address various problems Uganda faces in its anti-trafficking efforts, including a lack of familiarity with Uganda’s trafficking statute, a lack of training on TIP cases by officers and prosecutors, a lack of coordination between investigators and prosecutors, and the perceived low level of priority that officers place on TIP cases. She will also maintain a database of all TIP cases in Uganda and be the focal person for civil society organizations working with the victims as well as providing guidance to investigators and other prosecutors in regard to TIP cases.
“Rachel provides instant and effective solutions to the challenges faced by other prosecutors, investigators and the victims with regard to TIP cases,” said Tanima Kishore, the Institute’s Special Counsel to Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions. “She is an experienced prosecutor with a good understanding of the issue of human trafficking. She is extremely sensitive towards these cases and understands the special needs and attention required by the survivors of trafficking.”
Bikhole has served as the Principal State Attorney in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions since 2005 and has more than 12 years of experience in criminal prosecutions. She is currently deployed in the International Crimes Division, where she handles cases that include human trafficking, counter-terrorism, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
“Having been a prosecutor for this long, she is also well aware about the general challenges and loopholes of the criminal justice system and is seasoned to deal with them effectively,” Kishore said. “She is also extremely passionate and motivated for this role and believes that it can make a big difference.”
Bikhole holds a Master of Laws in International Criminal Law from the National University of Ireland, Galway; a post-graduate Diploma in Law from Law Development Centre Kampala; and an LLB from Makerere University Kampala.
Rachel Bikhole recently spoke with Tanima Kishore about her interest in law and passion to fight trafficking in Uganda.
Q. Why did you decide to study law?
I loved law. There were no lawyers in my family but I felt like being a courtroom lawyer. I am the first in my family so that also inspired me.
A. What led you into anti-trafficking work?
When I came across cases of human trafficking during my general course of work, it made me realize how important my job is towards securing the victim’s right to justice in such cases.
Q. What inspires you in your work?
A. Prosecuting cases of human trafficking gives me the satisfaction that my work is helping make people’s lives better and safer, and that is something that keeps me inspired. Also meeting people who are passionate about causes like human trafficking really inspires me.
Q. What do you wish people knew about trafficking in Uganda?
A. That it can happen to anyone and sometimes people who we trust the most can be the perpetrators. And that it’s a risky venture. And also that sometimes it can take really long to be detected.
Q. What excites you most about working with The Human Trafficking Institute in Uganda?
A. The fact that there is an expert [Kishore] here with whom I can share ideas with, and that the Institute offers trainings from which most of us can learn, and that they are treating human trafficking seriously and giving the issue a priority.