MP sentenced to two years imprisonment released

MP sentenced to two years imprisonment released
South Sudan Parliament building in the capital Juba (photo credit: CGTN)

A lawmaker who was sentenced to two years in prison without lifting immunity has been released after a protest from parliament.

The first deputy speaker of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) has raised concern over the sentencing of a Member of Parliament to two years imprisonment.

Oyet Nathaniel Pierino said the lawmaker was arrested in Juba two weeks ago. He accused the judiciary of sentencing the MP without consent from the legislature to have his immunity lifted before sending him to jail.

He raised the concern during a deliberation last week. Oyet said they did not expect that the judiciary— being an arm of the government—could act in such a manner.

He said it was illegal, unconstitutional and not procedural to pursue a member of parliament with an arrest warrant or prosecute him in the court of law before lifting his or her immunity.

 “I want to raise this in front of the Minister of Justice that last week, our honourable member of the house was arrested in Juba and sentenced to two years in jail.

“I am wondering why the judiciary which is one of the three arms of the government can jail a constitutional post holder who has immunity and privilege,” Oyet asked.

“This must stop. How comes the ministers are not arrested and the judges want their independence? The judges want to be free to discharge their functions, and, no member should be apprehended or to be arrested unless if there is a waiver by the leadership of the legislature,” he argued.

The arrest

The lawmaker he identified as Dau was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment on a civil case charge.

Mr Oyet, who also serves as the deputy speaker for parliamentary affairs, urged the executive arm of the government and the judiciary to respect the immunities and privileges of members of parliament.

“The immunities of the honourable members are just the same as the immunity and privileges being enjoyed by the members of the judiciary. The parliament just like the judiciary enjoys independence and integrity and the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balance” the lawmaker stressed.

“So we expect other arms of government to respect our integrity and independence as a distinct arm of government” he added.

He said the transitional constitution of South Sudan grants each Member of Parliament immunity and privileges once he or she takes an oath and assumes full mandate as a member.

He added that whoever has a case against a member of parliament should discuss with the leadership of the parliament to seek a waiver of the immunity.

“Once the leadership of the parliament is satisfied with the ground and after consultation with the MP in question then the immunity may be lifted after which due process of the law can take place.”

The MP was later released after the leadership of the parliament had notified and consulted the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary, Oyet told The City Review yesterday.

However, he revealed that another MP had reported to his office saying he was under investigation by the police over an old case.

When asked whether the judiciary was aware of the arrest and imprisonment of MP Dau, Deputy Chief Justice Dr John Gatwech said he was not aware of the incident but said it was not right for the judiciary to sentence MPs before lifting their immunities

“I am not aware of this because we don’t arrest people unless there has been a problem in the court, judges are the most faithful people to the law they can’t arrest an MP but an MP also must know that he should not be working against the law. I believe that we cannot arrest an MP without asking to get his immunity lifted,” said Justice Gatwech.