26th October 2020
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Ex-justices, -judges demand unconditional reinstatement as advised by EACJ

Author: Okot Emmanuel | Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Dr. Geri Raymondo at a media training workshop in Juba on November 9, 2019 | Credit | Marko Makat

The justices and judges who were dismissed by the President in 2017 say they should be reinstated without any conditions.

Reinstatement can be defined as the action of giving someone back a position they have lost.

But last week, the Minister of Justice told the former senior judicial staff to reapply for their jobs.

In a short statement seen by Eye Radio, Justice Minister Ruben Madol Arol said the new directive was issued by the Office of the President to reinstate the 13 justices and judges.

They are now required to reapply to the judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission for reinstatement.

However, the former justice of the Court of Appeal, who was among those dismissed, maintains that their removal was unconstitutional and does not, therefore, require an official reapplication.

“I want to assure the citizen and the people of South Sudan that justices and judges who were removed unconstitutionally are not going to apply to the judiciary,” Justice Geri Raymondo told Eye Radio on Tuesday.

“We are not seeking for a new job and the press release by our minister of justice. We consider him an incompetent authority to direct us.

“The only authority to direct us is the Judicial Service Commission and the leadership of the judiciary, through the director of Judges’ Affairs.”

Three years ago, President Salva Kiir dismissed the judges and justices through a presidential decree when they laid down their tools demanding resignation of Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut.

They accused the Chief Justice of failing to resolve their demands for allowances and better working conditions.

The justices and judges had insisted that they would not resume work until their demands were met.

As a result, President fired them after receiving a report from an investigation committee led by the then Minister of Justice, Paulino Wanawilla.

However, a justice of the Court of Appeal challenged the decision at the East African Court of Justice.

Justice Malek Mathiang Malek argued that the dismissal was undertaken without following disciplinary measures required under the Judicial Service Council Act, 2008.

He maintained that the President has no powers to remove Judges until a Judicial Service Council decides on such matters.

In July, the East African Court of Justice ruled that President Salva Kiir did violate South Sudan’s Constitution and the East African Community Treaty when he dismissed the judiciary staff.

The Court awarded costs to the complainant to be paid by the government of South Sudan.

In response, President Salva Kiir’s office agreed to abide by the ruling and ordered for the reinstatement of the judicial staff.

Justice Raymondo stated that they met with the Minister of Justice over the weekend to ensure the ruling of the East African Court of Justice was fully implemented.

“We suggested….a letter from the president directing the president of the Supreme Court and chairperson of Judicial Service Commission in order to call an urgent meeting relating to the implementation of the ruling by the East African Court of Appeal,” Raymondo continued.

Judges have often accused the executive of interfering with the independence of the Judiciary which they say has hurt the administration of Justice.

More than 200 judges and justices across the country went on strike in June 2017 over four years of unpaid arrears.

They complained about low wages, lack of proper accommodation, and private transportation after some got threatened while using public service vehicles.

The judges and justices told Eye Radio in 2017 that they did not have health insurance, office equipment – even for printing official court documents.

They demanded enactment of pension law and accused the Chief Justice of not promoting any of them after long years of service.

The government had agreed to meet some of their demands but later opted to dismiss the striking judges after a committee submitted the report to the President.

Their expulsion raised fears over the backlog of cases as courts in the states have failed to function due to the absence of justices and judges.

It is not clear whether their reinstatement will be accompanied by a decision to meet the demands the judges raised in 2017.

“As lawyers, we know what we are calling for – one, reinstatement without condition; two, general damages; and three, special damages,” he added.

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