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Daniel Deng, the Bor High Court Magistrate, is aware of one important fact:
“Training in judicial processes is critical to ensure fairness and professionalism in what we do.”
Mr. Deng made this declaration at the end of a one-day judicial training workshop conducted by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) office in Bor.
“We don’t have such opportunities often” said Deng. “We have challenges of staffing and appropriate settings, which affect the administration of justice; these kind of programmes are vital to enhance what we do,” he concluded.
He said he was happy that representatives of the court, the rule of law institutions, the Local Government and a Bor lawyers’ association could receive such training after a long time, to support the administration of justice in the Jonglei area.
The objective of the workshop was also to strengthen the capacities of traditional courts’ members and to facilitate a discussion between formal and traditional justice systems. The discussion focused on the existent competencies and jurisdiction each body has, and the necessary cooperation needed for a good functioning of the judiciary in Bor town.
Alfred Zulu, UNMISS Human Rights Officer in Bor said they identified many challenges in the dispensation of justice in Bor caused by existing conflicts between customary and formal law, lack of knowledge of some legal aspects and the overlapping of competencies within the judicial system.
“The workshop was designed to bring all partners involved in the process, from detention to investigation, trial, defense and custody, to facilitate an enriching dialogue that would result in better cooperation, and clarify areas of concern,” Zulu added.
Mr. Deng alluded to the recent war in South Sudan and the migration of several people outside the country as a major factor stalling the effective functioning of the judicial system.
“We [the judicial system] have been affected in several ways by the conflict situation and the fact that we have a major staffing problem. Some have left the country while others have been transferred out of town.”
For Jacob Malou, a trainee advocate, the workshop was most appropriate as it presented him and other participants an opportunity to learn the different competences of the various courts.
‘I learnt a lot, including the issue of jurisdiction of the various courts. There is usually conflict and discrepancies between C Courts and B Courts, and how they relate at the Payam levels. These were all clarified, and we are going back to our jobs knowing much better what to do and dispense fairer and effective justice.”
A visit to the high court in Bor town confirmed the high number of cases and people, but only a handful of staff to process the cases.