Missing file denies justice procedure

he Terrain Hotel compound was ransacked by South Sudanese troops, who went on to attack foreign aid workers, July 2016 he Terrain Hotel compound was ransacked by South Sudanese troops, who went on to attack foreign aid workers, July 2016 AP

6 September 2019

A missing file blocks a possibility for an appeal in the procedure for rapes and murder in South Sudan

During the time of conflict, rape turns into a war weapon used to inflict violence on civilians. In those circumstances, legal procedures aimed at delivering justice to victims do not fulfill their purpose. One example of the failure of the legal system can be seen in South Sudan where a missing file is preventing both parties from filing for an appeal in a particular sexual assault and murder case.

The violence case that shocked the public opinion occurred during the July-2016 attack on the Terrain hotel in Juba, South Sudan. In September 2018, 10 soldiers were convicted for rape of at least five aid workers and the murder of a journalist. $4,000 USD were assigned to each rape and sexual assault survivors while the killed journalist’s family received 51 cows. This decision was widely criticized as  disproportionate to the crime committed. On 6 September 2018, the case file, including the judgment, was sent to President Salva Kiir for confirmation. It has not been seen since then and it is believed that it was lost in the President’s Office. This doesn’t allow the Supreme Court to move forward with appeals filed by both the plaintiffs and the defendants and to continue with the regular justice procedure as a complete record of the case is necessary for the case to proceed on appeal. Plaintiffs  have to right to adequate damages whereas defendants should stand a fair trial.

It is not the first time that court documents disappear in South Sudan. According to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) associate Africa director Jehanne Henry “the disappearance of the case file has effectively stalled the appeal process and serves as a classic example of the justice system failures that exacerbate the culture of impunity in South Sudan”. In addition, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) founder Antonia Mulvey explains that “the authorities should ensure that there are no deliberate attempts to obstruct justice and locate the file, so the Supreme Court can examine the appeal”.


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Author: Giulia Francescon - Editor: Aleksandra Krol

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