Mobile courts established to serve justice in Maban County

Mobile courts established to serve justice in Maban County

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have launched an investigative mobile court in Maban County, Upper Nile State.

Over 23 capital cases, 17 murder cases, and six cases of Sexual Gender-Based Violence are expected to be investigated by the court. The hearings shall run throughout November 2021 to administer justice to the victims.

The mobile court is supported by the UNDP through its project dubbed as Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening Programme in collaboration with UNMISS and UNHCR through funding from the Embassy of Netherlands in South Sudan.

In a video released by UNDP on Wednesday, Nicola Makuach Bol, a Judge of the High Court, said Maban did not have any established courts that made it inevitable for the setting of mobile courts to solve backlog cases.

“Places like Maban are rural areas and there are no permanent courts here, the judge who is here is a second-grade judge with powers of first grade (Judge Nyabaj Tipo Kur),” he explained.

“We came with a very good team, the prosecutors are there and there are defence teams; all supported by UNDP. Now, we will work as an adversarial system and I will be their referee.”

Bol said he would be lucky enough if eyewitnesses would be there to deliver justice in time, promising to work up to Saturdays so as to pass judgment within the given timeframe.

Juma Lago Yoya, the South Sudan National Police Service Senior Investigator in Maban, stressed the importance of court in Maban.

He said people have been demanding justice but they often tell them to be patient.

 “I am happy for the coming mobile court here to resolve cases. Those with cases always come to us all the time but we have been telling them to wait for the mobile court deployment,” said Yoya.

The Defence Advocates, Nyaguen Tut Puok and Emmanuel Keji Inyasio, said they were committed to performing their duties entailing by establishing the facts of the case through the prisoner.

“We defend those who don’t have lawyers,  [because] some of them need help. It’s just a matter of them being defended, some of them are children,” said Emmanuel Keji Inyasio.

“We have many cases here in Maban, most of them are rape cases and other criminal cases,’’ Inyasio added.

Backlog

The last time the mobile court was deployed in Maban was in 2018 but since then, there has been no court in the area.

Makuach said that it was three years down the line with no court hearings in Maban emphasising that “a justice delayed is justice denied.”

“A justice delayed is justice denied, and that is what the mobile court is trying to resolve,” he said.

Other beneficiaries

From December 2020 to January 2021, there was a deployment of mobile courts in Unity State following the rise in violence against women and girls.

The court was deployed by the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. It was funded by the government of Japan through UNDP’s Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights Strengthening programme in collaboration with UNMISS.

 “Delays in the delivery of justice creates a perception of denial of justice, and it erodes confidence in the justice system.

“By offering legal means to settle disputes or grievances rather than violence, the mobile court in Bentiu can promote peace and stability in Unity State,” said UNDP Resident Representative Christy Ahenkora.

There were hearings of 129 cases in Malakal including nine SGBV cases. Other deployments were in Kapoeta where 72 cases were heard. 82 and 77 cases were also heard in Yambio and Terekeka respectively.

 “The establishment of mobile courts in South Sudan emerged as a result of reports of the backlog of cases, arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention as well as lack of legal aid systems,” said Evelyn Edroma, a UNDP Rule of Law Policy Advisor and Programme Manager of the Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights Strengthening Programme.

There have been 24 mobile courts since 2017, which have been deployed in nine locations countrywide. They include Kapoeta, Pibor, Rumbek, Ruweng, Terekeka, Yambio, Malakal, Yirol and Bentiu.

Cases involving 1,197 victims of crimes and perpetrators were prosecuted although they had been there without judgment for a long time.

Between 2019 and 2020, there were more than 495 cases including 44 sexual and gender-based violence crimes were decided upon. The backlog in targeted cases was reduced by 65 per cent.

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