South Sudan to benefit from the East Africa Court of Justice

Participants during group work at Palm Africa Hotel on Friday

 By Sheila Ponnie

Activists have revealed that Victims of human rights violations in the country will benefit from The East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) through access to the court.

Speaking to Journalists during two days training at Palm Africa Hotel on Friday, Henry Moga, the Executive Director of People’s Demand Organisation (PEDO) said that in South Sudan victims fear intimidation due to the situation in the Country.

“The EACJ will help the nation since victims of human rights violations will have access to the enjoyment of rights remedies,” Moga said.

He added that in South Sudan sometimes some violators or perpetrators are high ranking officials who may intimidate victims and survivors.

“Sometimes the victims of human rights violation may be having that fear that there will be intimidation of arrest. So for that case, they do not have the power of summoning these men or following up the case.”

Moga said through the East Africa Court of Justice such fears will be overcome.

“Sometimes the victims may present their case but in the end you may find that the case may be dismissed or thrown away and one ends up getting frustrated and this is discouraging a lot of people.

He gave an example of how women who report rape cases are discouraged from following up their casesbecause they are intimidated and arbitral arrested

“We believe through EACJ all these will be conquered,” Moga said satisfactorily.

The workshop on strengthening the capacity of Civil Society Organisations, journalists and lawyers on engagement with the African Commission on Human and People’s rights and the EACJ was conducted by The Article 19 East Africa.

Article 19 is an organisation that works to ensure plurality and diversity in the media. It aims at defining freedom of expression and information. The training was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Mulla Sarah Pitty, a Legal Officer at the Centre for Human Rights Lawyers said that it is important for South Sudan to consider the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights because of the different national mechanism of solving disputes.

She added that “in case it doesn’t work then we have to go for the African court under African charter on human and people rights.”

“Since South Sudan has signed the treaty of which the ratification process is halfway once we ratify it, we will be pound by the African commission says but then we will not be pound with whatever the court says, we will not be able to access the court unless we ratify the protocol that recognizes the court. And there different types of approaching the court  the  first way is can be through the commission and the other can be directly by Civil Society Organisation  or an individual  approaching the court  and what we have to do is to ratify the optional protocol of which South Sudan has not done it,” said Sarah.

The Chairperson of Article 19 Eastern Africa, John Gachie, said that Article 19 deals with freedom of expression.

“We champion the rights to hold opinions, the rights to speak up and also the rights to know, the rights to express those opinions.” Gachie explained.

He noted that the article talks about the inalienable rights of an individual to have the opinion, hold that opinion, receive knowledge and information. But having said that, there is a right for you to be allowed to express that opinion,” he added.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was proclaimed in December 1948 article 19 states that Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and  this rights includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers

Gachie added that as part of basic human rights, Article 19 believes that human beings after they have life, after they live, after they breathe.

“The most fundamental thing is for them to be able to express themselves. However, that right to express oneself presupposes that when you’re expressing yourself is that you also receive the right for other people to express themselves.”Gachie said.

Churchill Ongere, Article 19 Eastern Africa trainer said that Article 19 is engaging South Sudanese lawyers, Journalists and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) people who normally referred to as human rights defenders to strengthen the capacity on how they can seek recourse at the  East African Court Justice  as member state of East Africa Community.

“We are training lawyers on for example mitigation, journalist on how to cover the work that the court does, and we are training civil societies Organisations how to prepare mitigation cases if there are, there.” he explained

Ongere highlighted that it is vital for the Human Right Defenders to learn the technicalities around presenting a case before the East African Courts.

“You know just sharing with them the knowledge the history of the and also sharing with them the officials of the court course it is important to know the officials so that you know how easy it is for you to access the court so those four things are very important in accessing the courts.”“So the issue of the knowledge, the history of the court where it is based how to access it the strategies to use in engaging it both formal and informal the technicalities what are the time lines within which something can be presented to the court after the offensive has been done.” He said

He added that the HRD have learnt that for the East African Court.The report has to be done within the two months after the occurrence has been

“So it is important for the number of people who know these set of information to even be more than the number of people being trained and we are envisioning the future to do more trainings for legislature and for the national human rights institutions and people working for the government and it could important for them to know how the East African Court works.”Ongere said.

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