Juba, South Sudan,
June 03, 2021 – A group of outspoken judges has Thursday this week slammed the government for disrespectful treatment and lack of financial priority given to the country’s third branch of the State.
The group of legal advocates said they are being choked by budget deficiency because the people who run the government financial institutions are ignorant about what the judiciary as the arm of the government is.
Speaking during the judicial reforms and permanent constitution-making process workshop organized by UNDP, UN Women, and UNMISS Deputy Chief Justice John Gatwech Lul said relevant government institutions should be made to understand the functions of the judiciary.
“There is a need for people to know what is the judiciary. Even some of the ministers don’t know. They think we are an institution within the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs,” said the Deputy Chief Justice.
“They do not consider us as an institution that needs to be respected. The position of the judiciary should be communicated so that everybody knows. We are not independent as far as financing is concerned,” he added.
Mr. Gatwech said budget deficiency has affected the daily running of the business at the judiciary adding that judges walk to work because they do not personal means of transport.
“A judge is coming from Gudele on foot and on Boda [Boda]. We don’t have cars. Those cars brought in 2011 do you expect them to be on the road up now?” he asked.
As the country plans to expand the judiciary, the judges said the institution was understaffed and needed more manpower.
He revealed that the expansion of constitutional court requires manpower and for the case of South Sudan there are few judges providing services to the people. Gatwech said the number of judges was just below 250.
“We don’t have enough judges where will you get the manpower to run the constitutional court?” he questioned.
Another concourt judge Justice Stephen Simon said that the Judiciary has only a limited number of courts right from the court of appeal to the supreme court. Stephen has also not been promoted for more than a decade.
“I am now sixteen years in one position without being promoted. We don’t have even identity cards and you say I am a judge. Nobody will respect you,” said Simon. “We are doing the judiciary service because we want to help the people. We are going for six(months) without a salary. This is the situation we are in today,” he added.
“We were feeling okay in terms of salary and service provided to the judges by the Judiciary itself,” he said.
During the launch of a GBV court in November last year, Chief Justice of South Sudan Judiciary Chan Reec Madut said judges would be deployed across the states to address cases of GBV.
“We will be sending judges to states to address issues of GBV,” Mr. Chan was quoted to have said.
But almost one year later, the pledge has not yet been fulfilled due to a lack of sufficient budget.