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Executive accused of crippling justice system

Author: Eye Radio | Published: Monday, October 7, 2019

President Salva Kiir | File photo. Eye Radio.

Lack of independence has crippled the justice system in South Sudan, a new report by human rights watchdog has shown.

It suggest that government officials have allowed impunity to flourish over “monstrous crimes”.

In the “Do you think we will prosecute ourselves: No prospects for accountability in South Sudan” report, reveals prosecutors only follow the directives of the executive.

Without such directives, the reports say prosecutors do not investigate cases of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since brutal conflict broke out in December 2013, prosecuting only one case.

From Juba to Malakal, Wau, Bentiu and other places, the 42-page report says a trail of monstrous crimes against civilians have been committed.

“South Sudan’s government has responded with investigation committees whose reports rarely see the light of day, and when they do, their findings largely ignore crimes committed by government forces,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The authorities’ failure to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of crimes under international law, committed by both government and opposition armed groups necessitates a meaningful and effective alternative justice mechanism for the people of South Sudan.”

At present, President Salva Kiir can confirm or reject judgments by the military courts, effectively giving him veto powers over what is supposed to be an independent judicial process, it says.

Lack of prosecutorial independence has impeded prosecution of serious human rights violations perpetrated since 2013 in the context of the conflict, partly reads the report.

“As one lawyer explained to Amnesty International, public prosecutors would not bring cases against the government since they answer to the executive, and they would not bring cases against members of armed groups because they operate in areas beyond the reach of the statutory justice system.

In addition, AI says South Sudanese authorities typically deny credible reports implicating the armed forces in serious human rights violations.

“When the President does respond by setting up investigation committees, they lack independence and impartiality and, with the one exception, do not result in criminal trials,” it continues.

The report recommends establishment of the hybrid court as provided for by the revitalized peace agreement.

It also asks the government to conduct judicial and legal reform to improve the domestic justice system’s independent ability to address impunity for crimes committed in the context of the ongoing conflict.

AI, in the report encourages UN member states to exercise their jurisdiction over crimes under international law committed in South Sudan under the principle of universal jurisdiction and where the opportunity arises.

Read the full report here.

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