United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) train justice actors for circuit court deployment in Tonj south

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently held a pivotal two-day workshop to prepare Tonj South for an upcoming circuit court.

This initiative, which falls under the Kong Koc Project funded by the South Sudan Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Resilience (RSRTF), aims to enhance the justice system’s efficiency by addressing long-pending cases involving intercommunal violence.

Delayed justice has often led to revenge attacks and over-detention, and this step seeks to bring long-term peace and stability to Greater Tonj.

The workshop assembled 17 key justice actors, including judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, investigators, and prison officials. Facilitated by the High Court President, the event focused on clarifying roles, refreshing knowledge on criminal investigations and trials, and ensuring effective coordination for court proceedings. “This workshop has been crucial for ensuring all justice actors are on the same page. Our goal is to ensure justice is served efficiently and fairly, said High Court President, Malou Yel.

Addressing the backlog of serious cases was a significant focus. “We are facing a major backlog on serious cases,” noted Mabio Malek, an investigator based in Tonj South. “This workshop has equipped us with tools and strategies to prioritize and manage these cases effectively.”

Human rights considerations, such as alternatives to the death penalty and the importance of proving crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, were also discussed. “It’s essential to explore alternatives like life imprisonment,” emphasized President Yel. “We are committed to upholding human rights and ensuring justice is delivered fairly.”

Susana Akec, the only female member of the Circuit Court serving the National Prison Service in South Sudan (NPSSS), stressed the workshop’s importance. “This pre-deployment workshop is more meaningful than ever,” she said. “I have been working with women and children in prisons. Through the session on children’s rights and human rights, I realized that some of our practices need to be refined in line with existing laws. I need to pass this information to my peers to address inappropriate detention policies before the court deployment.”

The interface between politics and the justice process was another topic of discussion. John Deng, a public prosecutor based in Tonj, urged participants to maintain open communications with local government bodies and adhere strictly to their principles. “We must know our roles and responsibilities and must work with authorities to arrive at workable solutions to any issues faced,” he stated.

Wrapping up the training, Lena Becker, a Justice Advisor from the UNMISS Rule of Law and Security Institutions Section (RoLSIS) pointed out that while there might be challenges while deploying, partnerships are key to overcoming these. “Collaboration is key to overcoming obstacles and ensuring the success of the circuit court,” Ms. Becker said.

Mr. Yel echoed the sentiment, urging participants to remain committed, emphasizing that a successful deployment will lead to increased support in the rule of law sector to boost the legal system in Warrap State. “This workshop has laid a strong foundation for our upcoming circuit court,” he concluded. “With continued dedication and collaboration, we can make significant strides in delivering justice across Tonj South.”

The circuit court is expected to start its hearings at the end of May, operating for four weeks, followed by a validation workshop.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

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