Tackling Case Backlog with the Ministry of Justice

Jul 8, 2016

Trainees in a computer lab acquiring skills to develop a computerized case management system.

Ministry of Justice national- and state-level support staff, including five women, completed an intensive training last Friday on case management and computer skills -- the first such workshop in the history of the legal system in South Sudan.

The programme was organized by the Ministry of Justice and facilitated by Good Hope Africa, with support from UNDP and funding from the Government of the Netherlands. The workshop aimed to help the legal system’s support staff to work faster and more efficiently.

“I am happy to see people from nearly every state in South Sudan [attending this training],” said Embassy of the Netherlands First Secretary Martin Beerthuizen at the training’s opening ceremony. “You will help leadership and management get all the information necessary to make good decisions in their work. Together, this work will improve access to justice in this country.”

Case management enables the justice system to measure case backlog, ensuring the swift disposal of cases and reducing prolonged and arbitrary detention.

There are hundreds of cases on the “pending trial” list in South Sudan. The number is constantly increasing, especially in state capitals, where the issue of backlog is particularly acute.

Coping with case backlog has become a growing concern for judges, lawyers and court administrators across the country. Case backlog has many causes, including limited judges and qualified support staff, and dire consequences: case backlog violates an individuals’ right to a speedy and fair trial, can lead to lengthy detention while awaiting trial, and erodes the public trust in the justice system.

“You cannot succeed without measuring, that is the purpose of case management,” said UNDP Chief Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Justice Rowland Cole, stressing the importance of the historic first training. “Whatever you do will be recorded in the history of this country. This is not a small thing; this is a serious contribution to the development of this country.”

Trainees expressed satisfaction about what they learned during the two-week intensive training.

“This training has empowered me with the knowledge and skills that will help me carry out my work professionally,” said Gai Ajith Leek, a trainee from Jonglei. “During the past two weeks, I have gained comprehensive skills and expertise in several areas related to case management.”

“I feel privileged to participate in the case flow management course for the first time in my career,” said trainee Victoria Andrea. “I have gained a lot from the training and I hope to improve on my work when I return to my state.”

The training was unique as it combined case management with computer competencies in line with the Ministry of Justice’s ambition to develop a computerized case management system.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands has a motto of learning all life long, and I am glad the Ministry of Justice here is also committed to that same philosophy and instilling that in its staff working all over South Sudan,” said Embassy of the Netherlands First Secretary Martin Beerthuizen.

“This is a big project between us [the Government of South Sudan] and our development partners, the Government of Netherlands and UNDP, to promote access to justice and rule of law,” said Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice Hon. Jeremiah Swaka. “The Netherlands has been very supportive to UNDP and the ministry, and without them such trainings would not be carried out and proceed as they have.”

Another two-week case management training course continues this week with support staff from the Judiciary of South Sudan.

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