13th November 2019
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GBV special courts to be established -Chief Justice

Author: Woja Emmanuel | Published: 3 months ago

Human rights experts say up to 65% of women and girls in South Sudan experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The Chief Justice says plans are underway to establish a special court to handle crimes related to Gender-based Violence in the country.

Chan Reech Madut who is also the President of the Supreme Court said the court will handle both domestic violence and serious cases related to human rights violations.

During the five year violence, the UN and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission stated that Sexual and gender-based violence including rape, abductions, killings targeting women and children increased in South Sudan.

It reported that older women and girls have been subjected to rape in parts of Yei River, Upper Nile and former Unity states.

In 2014, the United Nations and the government agreed to develop concrete measures on how to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.

These actions include; issuance of clear order prohibiting sexual violence through the chain of command, timely investigation of alleged violations, and reinforcement of the military justice system.

The South Sudan constitution gives the Chief Justice the powers to issue judicial circulars, warrants of establishment and directives to the Courts necessary for the proper and efficient administration of justice.

This including upholding and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

Early this year, the UN Human Rights Commission said it was alarmed at the large degree to which rape and sexual violence had been perpetrated in South Sudan during the five-year civil war.

It said over 100 women and girls were raped after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement last year.

The UNMISS human rights division said it has documented 95 separate incidents of violations and abuses in the period from September 2018 until April 2019.

The report said the atrocities were committed by government forces, SPLA-IO, National Salvation Front or NAS and the South Sudan National Movement for Change or SSNMC.

It revealed that least 150 civilians were also held in captivity by these groups, including women and girls taken as “wives” by commanders or raped and beaten by multiple fighters.

Both the government and Opposition have rubbished the report.

In June, the Government of South Sudan signed a joint communique with the UN to establish GBV court in South Sudan, and holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable.

Speaking at the State House, J1, on Friday, Justice Chan Reec Madut said they intend on setting up mobile courts to address Gender-based Violence cases across the country.

“We will have a focal point also for gender-based violence -those who beat women and beat men are going to be the subject of that court,” he said.

UN says the conflict in South Sudan has killed more than 50,000 people, forced more than 2 million to flee abroad and plunged parts of the country into famine.

A comprehensive report by the International Rescue Committee and George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute released in 2017 found that up to 65% of women and girls interviewed for the new study said they had experienced sexual or physical violence. Over half of the women reported domestic abuse. Women and girls living in the United Nations-run civilian protection site in the capital, Juba, were most vulnerable to sexual violence.

The report cited a “breakdown in the rule of law” in South Sudan, meaning perpetrators go unpunished.

Additional reports in 2018, said some 2,300 cases of sexual violence were reported in South Sudan in the first half of last year, the vast majority of the victims women and girls. More than 20 percent of the victims were children.

But the agencies said the actual number of cases is “far higher,” as gender-based violence is severely under-reported.

They called on all “relevant authorities to publicly denounce the attacks and ensure those responsible for these crimes face justice.”

Justice Chan Reec confirmed that the courts will also be established at the state levels.

“Once we are through with this court, we will be heading out curts to the various places as mobile courts,” he said.

Civil Society groups also said cases such as beating and torture, rape and forced marriages amongst others have been committed by armed men and ordinary persons contrary to the constitution.

The Executive Director for Organization for Responsive Governance welcomed the plans to establish the mobile courts against Gender-based violence.

Rajaf Muhandis said the courts should be impartial, credible and must take into account the protection of survivors of Gender-based violence.

“Assurance needs to be given to the public and particularly those who may want to use this court to be satisfied that these courts are credible and would deliver justice,” he said.

“Of course there is the fear of retaliation that…if they use this court they will be safe and they will not be followed by the perpetrator or people who are related to them,” Muhandis added.

He urged the Chief Justice to allay fears and build the confidence of the public in the said court.

“These are things that need to be clarified to the public to build their confidence to be able to use these courts if established,” he concluded.

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