Legal experts urge authorities to investigate backlog cases
By Moses Gum Degur
A South Sudanese lawyer has urged judicial authorities to investigate backlog or pending legal cases in order to end prolonged detention of inmates in various detention facilities in the country.
Taban Romano, the Managing Director of Human Rights Initiative, was speaking during a two- day symposium organised by his organisation in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Juba on Tuesday.
The session on strategic convening on legal aid services organised under the theme: “Access to Justice for all Citizens,” was attended by legal experts from various institutions across the country. The two-day symposium ended yesterday.
Mr. Romano said it is a necessity for the authorities to investigate those whose cases are pending in a bid to provide justice for those detained. He further said many citizens convicted of different crimes are not provided justice by either acquitting them or prosecute them in the court of law.
However, he lamented sentences that prolong detention of inmates. “We are urging the police and the prosecutors to investigate and prosecute those who are found guilty of the offense committed and free those who are innocent,” Romano said.
“Some of the accused have spent long time in detention without investigation. As a matter of providing legal aid to the citizens, there is need for their issues to be looked into,” Romano added.
Mr. Romano stressed that it is of a paramount importance that legal institutions sensitise the public on access to justice in order for them to understand their constitutional rights. He underscored that provision of free legal services to all the citizens of the country without prejudice would help many vulnerable groups tackle issues of human rights abuses.
Mr. Romano urged legal experts to exercise their duties fully to help the vulnerable groups to access their rights without fear or intimidation.
Speaking at the same function, Justice Dr. Geri Raimondo Legge, who facilitated the two-day session, said there is need for judges to uphold principle of fair trial by abiding by laws of the country.
He said judges should be good listeners to both complainants and the accused in order to collect and provide proper evidence before the final court ruling. “My colleagues, (judges) should give fair trial to all. Don’t condemn somebody unheard. All should talk out their grievances. Let the accused be allowed to testify either to deny or accept the claims,” Dr. Geri urged.
Dr. Geri said all the citizens are equal before the law irrespective of their; gender, ethnicity, social status or any other consideration; adding that any accused person must be presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty based upon evidence.
“The right to fair trial is not a privilege. They are not favours. Those are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. Anything short of international recognised standards is a step outside constitutionalism and a step in to dictatorship”, Justice Geri cautioned.
He added for laws to prevail, there is need to release those innocent people who are jailed without sufficient evidence brought against them. He also urged the prosecutors and the police to safeguard victims and recognise their needs, respect their dignity, allow them to seek redress in judicial proceedings and speed up investigation and prosecution of backlog of cases.