Hon Oyet Nathaniel, first deputy speaker of the R-TNLA (Left); Hon Jemma Nunu Kumba, speaker R-TNLA (midle); and Hon Parmena Awerial Aluong, second deputy speaker (Right), in a meeting with Judicial Reform Committee in Juba on Thursday, January 18, 2024 | Credit | Daniel Garang Deng/TRC
The Speaker of the National parliament, Hon Jemma Nunu Kumba, called for reforms in the judiciary to end the accumulation of cases without trial in time.
Speaking in consultative meeting with the Judicial Reform Committee on Thursday in Juba, the speaker emphasized that an effective judiciary should be independent, accessible, transparent, and competent to uphold the rule of law.
“The issue of independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The judiciary should be free without interference from any branch of government so that we can uphold the rule of law,” Hon Nunu said.
“Secondly, access to justice by our citizens. Every citizen should have access to the judicial system regardless of his/her status; whether poor or rich, the system must provide access to everyone.”
“We are also looking at having an efficient and transparent judicial system. This can help to make sure that people cases are addressed. There should be no backlog of cases because justice delayed is justice denied,” she stated.
Last week, the Prisons Service raised concerns over overcrowding, which it said had caused many prisoners to be sleeping in toilets, as others sleep in shifts. Many have been reported dead due to diseases or suffocation.
Read: Juba Prison: Inmates sleep in shifts, die of diseases
According to prison authorities, overcrowding is as result of delayed trials and cases of suspects’ file missing in the judicial process – a situation the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ruben Madol, vowed to address.
The inmates in Juba prison are about 2836 – 1,618 of whom have just been remanded without trials for years. Many have lost files and have no access to justice.
The inmates said sometimes if they do not have money to facilitate their process, they will not be taken to court.
“Are we prisoners of war or citizens? Where are the files for the cases of the inmates?” Asked Nicola Nyieth, an inmate who has spent two years in prison.
In response, Madol told the inmates during a visit to Juba Central Prison on Monday last week that: “We started hearing about these issues of the lost files since last year; let me assure you that the file issues will end this year, 2024.”
Hon Nunu emphasized that the judicial reforms efforts should aim at enhancing public understanding of the legal processes, promote accountability and foster greater trust in the judiciary.
“We inherited the system that was inundated by a lot of problems and challenges, and it is high a time now as an independent country to reform the system and make our judiciary effective,” she stated.
“We need to put in place program for training our judges and court personnel as well as legal professionals in order to maintain competence in the judiciary.”
Nunu underscored that South Sudan inherited judicial system from Sudan, but for the last 12 years, the country has been struggling to end the conflict which it went into barely two years after declaration of independence – a crisis which interrupted the reforms.
“After 2011, we were trying to sit and start reviewing what we inherited from the enemy who was fighting us. The system was designed to fight the war. Unfortunately, two years down the line, we went into war,” she added.
On Thursday, the Judicial Reform Committee invited the speaker of the national parliament and her two deputy speakers to hear the views of the parliament on judicial reform.