Mobile courts deliver long-awaited justice in remote parts of South Sudan

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People living in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria town of Yambio can now have access to justice, through the initiation of a mobile court in the area, which is expected to hear more than 100 cases by end of the year.

An initiative between United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the mobile courts aim to bring justice to parts of the country like Yambio, where the legal system has been neglected after decades of conflict.

South Sudan’s civil war has killed almost 400 000 people since 2013, about half dying from violent injuries. Combatants on all sides have perpetrated serious human rights abuses, including gang rape, abductions, sexual slavery of women and girls and recruitment of children.

Some of the suspects have waited for years without trial.

One of the first cases in Yambio saw a suspect being led into the court room for his case to be heard.

The main reason for the hold-up of the cases was due to the absence of judges who had fled the area since conflict erupted in the Western Equatorial region in 2016.

Richard Nimeri, whose case is currently being heard, is grateful that he will soon get justice. His case had been delayed since 2017.

“My case had taken about three years now, but I’m happy now that we have a judge from Juba. Sometimes delay in justice may cause bad things. People will start taking revenge therefore I’m very grateful to UNMISS and the government for bringing us a Judge to solve our problems,” he said.

Judge Angelo Daniel used to try cases in Yambio before the conflict.

He relocated to the country’s capital Juba but is now back as one of the judges launching the mobile courts.

“We started today with three cases, one is a case of rape and theft. It was very fruitful day,” Judge Angelo said.

“Part of the UNMISS mandate to protect civilians is to ensure accountability for serious crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence. So, one of the things that UNMISS together with UNDP have been trying to do is to support this kind of mobile courts so that they are able to go to places where one or more of the justice sector is either missing or need additional support to be able to ensure access to justice to the most vulnerable people,” added McCall Carter, Rule of Law Officer at UNMISS.

Some of the cases expected to be heard before the close of the year include rape, murder and theft cases.