VOICES ON JUSTICE FROM A JUSTICE SEMINAR

The following were voices of participants in a Researching Justice Seminar.

ON THE INNOCENCE OF PEOPLE WHO DIED AT THE OUTBREAK OF CONFLICT IN DEC 2013

“If some Nuer or Dinka who died that night were awake today they wouldn’t be able to tell you what the problem was that night.”

“Draw lessons from the Kenyan story and the recent AUCI report – the leak caused a lot of problems – to me it’s a clear attempt to kill the case. We need to be very cautious – the guys are not really sleeping, there is need for a strong strategy to ensure preserving the evidence and the safety of the witness is ensured.”

ON DOING RESEARCH

“Be careful of growing bias of information. We’re working on naming the lost – we gathered 5000 names; when we screened we had 572… people want to use ethnicity…”

ON THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

“People want to use justice as a way of political gain – Riek Machar is using figures of the death toll from Juba for political gain – similarly they were used for political gain around the 1991 massacre.”

“Communities resist the decision of local court. In Lakes someone was sentenced to be hanged. As soon as decision made by court the court was attacked by armed youth saying you can’t kill our man because he’s not the first – they had a list of people committing similar crimes in past and were not held accountable. They took the suspect by force.”

“Laws are contradictory to statutory law. For example, a rape case: Pastoralist communities they have a number of cattle to be paid. In farming communities you pay in money form. In Mundri – you pay 500 SSP – this is 50 dollars. If someone can be sentenced for 10 or 15 years but in a rural setting you only pay 50 dollars – and the innocent girl unable to go to school… this promotes a culture of ‘court shopping’ where people go from one court to another in search of a more favourable judgement. It depends on the level of consciousness of the victim and his or her family members. In most cases they drop the case. But with levels of conscious they can pursue.”

“Ethnicity plays a role…. Communities won’t trust a decision if made by a chief of another tribe – may go and seek just from chief in own ethnic group”

“If the last level of customary court gives a disagreeable ruling then you can go to statutory. But often people don’t wait to pursue through customary…. People see the ethnic background of the judge – people sometimes jump to the statutory if they no longer trust the hierarchical structure of customary court.”

“The capacity of judges and police investigation is hindering justice in South Sudan. In the past police were to do pre-trial proceeding… incapable of doing so without recourse to threats, intimidation and torture. They lack professional investigative back ground.”

“Now it’s changed a bit with public prosecution attorney – charged with pre trail proceedings – falling into the trap – language – most of the prosecutors are of Arabic background. Difficult understanding of law and also communication between them and judges and them and citizens is a problem.”

“English is now the language of instruction but all the proceedings are still done in Arabic. For those who’ve grown in East Africa this presents a problem. People run away from cases because of lack of language capability. This is a challenge.”

“When the anti-corruption commission was established it lacked prosecutorial power. Now there’s an amendment to the anti-corruption act amended giving criminal prosecution. But it is never enacted. But the power is the same as those of minister of justice. There is a conflict – the power of the prosecutor general supersedes that of the anti-corruption commission.”

“The anti-corruption commission here became another toothless institution.”

“The anti-corruption commission in Yambio is just a signpost; they are doing nothing.”

“Judges who are addicted to air conditioning but supposed to be judges in the periphery [rural areas]… have cases get moved from the countryside to the centre because the judiciary isn’t providing drinking water, electricity or security to judges who are supposed to stay rural. As judges, they are at risk as a result of their judgements and need to be given security. Due to a lack of it they move to the towns.”

ON THREATS TO JOURNALISTS

“Journalists face security threats, especially from organised forces… corruption there… if security find an article they don’t like they can take you wherever and lock you in. even the army, if they don’t like something you have written which is touching they can lock you in the barracks.”

“They release you after some days with no charges and you go after suffering. This is an issue whether police or security know their roles. Everyone is simply acting on his own and doesn’t know the law. The issue of insecurity: if you want to utter things anyhow, definitely your life you will loose it. That’s why people fear to report cases – because if you report definitely you will loose your life.”

“An incident happened we were warned through telephone by security that we shouldn’t publish anything on federalism – all media houses – a verbal warning. As editors we came together and wanted to know from the Honourable Minister if the security made the threat on behalf of the government. The Minister denied and said he was unaware of such statements – maybe security are acting alone, or people of the rebels are causing problems for the government. The following day the newspapers came out with federalism. Security went straight and confiscated newspapers – after the Minister went on media and said he had declared no such thing. So who’s in charge?”

ON LAND ISSUES

“Land is a daily problem that brings out the tears of the people of South Sudan. The real law of the nation is the one denying the rights of the citizens. The real problem is the Land Act – it protects the interest of the government in relation to the land – but were the citizens consulted? No. Experts were brought from Kenya and advised the government on the nature of the Land Act we have now without taking into consideration cultural practise in South Sudan.”

“Under Sudan, we worked on Land Ordinance 1925 – this guaranteed universal principles of land Acquisition. The Land Act was not a continuation of this – it was a new law omitting the practise by which our people were exercising acquisition of land. Under Land Ordinance 1925, that people used, there was universal provision for continuous use of land by a person. There was a premise of land title. After more than ten years on the land it becomes yours. Now this site certificate – whether you get it from an angel or the devil – gives you right to that land kicking off the people who live there. The Land Act needs to contain the cultural practices of South Sudan.”

ON RULE OF LAW

“Justice can make people happy – like with revenge – revenge can come faster than justice so justice should come in time.”

“Revenge can be kept for 10 years and still enacted. What kind of justice is revenge really? When the conflict has killed many how do you bring in justice immediately where their hearts are still burning in conflict? In Northern Uganda they tried to do the healing in a traditional way. People still make statements of 1991 which still brings provocations – if we keep on referring to the past and such past events bring conflict how will justice come”

“When there is conflict and then justice is there in time there should be no revenge. When justice doesn’t come in time, there will be revenge.”

“There are elements of cultural influences that disrupt the system of governance. Those elements need to be brought to the table for discussion to make the systems harmonised.”

“Justice means treating people equally. What’s needed is for justice to be put in place. To tackle nepotism, and tribalism, at least the high ranking leaders should bring peace through political dialogue, so the issue of tribe is not there. Everyone should be called South Sudanese.”

“Historically, traditionally address through local chiefs and elders, and sub-chiefs. When there are conflicts, normally in the past people obey traditional leaders, information will be sent, the conflicting parties will have to come on their own to explain their differences. Parents of the conflicting parties will be called to witness how the conflicts are being resolved, at the elders of chieftain level. Normally used free hands to fight, clubs, and spears in those days. These days it’s using modern weapons. So it’s become very difficult.”

OTHER VOICES

  • Voices from a Paralegal Workshop
  • On Divorce, Security & the Justice System
  • REFLECTIONS ON THE IGAD PEACE PROCESS
  • VOICES FROM CIVIL SOCIETY
  • VOICES OF WOMEN IN THE PAYAMS OF JUBA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Email and Name is required.