Juba, 13 July 2018 - The United Nations Development Programme’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Jubek State Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency, held a four-day interactive workshop for twenty traditional authorities serving in Jubek State on concepts and principles of rule of law and human rights, including the rights of women and children.
The training opened with remarks from the Jubek State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency Hon. Isaac Ribek, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. James Mayen Oka, and UNDP Country Director Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen.
During the opening session, Hon. Isaac Ribek, expressed his gratitude to UNDP for the opportunity given to build the capacity of traditional authorities and to translate legal provision into reality. “This should not be the first and the last but should continue to train more chiefs...This batch are pioneers for such training initiative,” Hon. Ribek said, emphasizing that the chiefs should put human rights at the forefront when exercising their roles as traditional judges, in order to address Gender Based Violence (GBV) and other rights violations.
“The importance of traditional authorities in every society cannot be understated, not least because they are the first point of contact in the resolution of conflict at the rural community level,” said Dr. Kamaluddeen during his opening speech, citing that eighty percent of cases in South Sudan are heard in customary courts. “As leaders in your communities, aligning customary law with international standards and the South Sudan Bill of Rights will improve your ability to administer justice services effectively in your various jurisdictions at the local level, and thereby foster peace and stability.”
The workshop seeks to promote harmonization of customary law and formal law, to increase legislative compliance of customary law, and to help traditional authorities align their practices with human rights standards. The training is the latest step in UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law Project, which provides support to the Ministry of Justice and the Local Government Board in their mandate to develop a harmonized legal system.
Customary law is an integral component of the justice system, with customary law recognized as a source of legislation in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (2011). Customary law and statutory law operate side by side in South Sudan, thereby creating a legal pluralist system.
In its support to traditional justice, UNDP developed a manual for the training of traditional leaders in partnership with UNWOMEN and has trained over 300 traditional leaders in Aweil, Torit, Bor, Wau, and Yambio. These trainings have resulted in increased awareness in the application of the rule of law and an increase of women adjudicating in customary courts.
UNDP has also supported the ascertainment of customary law of 22 communities in South Sudan. The ascertainment project sought to assist rural communities in documenting their customary law, and to serve as a basis for future capacity building and delivery of quality justice services. These documents have now become resource material which can be used to guide decision-making processes of customary and traditional courts, thereby ensuring consistency and predictability.
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