18 April 2020— UNDP Access to Justice and Rule of Law Project has partnered with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and the Ministry of Interior to protect the Staff and users of justice services against the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership aims to engage policymakers to determine what protections to put in place for judges, prosecutors, prison officials, police officers, and Administrative Staff.
UNDP's intervention at this stage is crucial as South Sudan's justice system is underfunded and will not be able to ensure the levels of hygiene required in line with WHO guidelines.
To bridge the gap, UNDP's Chief Technical Advisor and Project Manager of the Access to Justice and Rule of Law Project, Evelyn Edroma has handed over the assortment of hygiene and personal protection kits to the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Joseph Malek Mabior.
Hon. Joseph Mabior lauded UNDP for the gesture and assured that the items provided would be used for the intended purpose. He noted that UNDP has been a long-standing partner and has always provided support in times of need. He concluded, "I look forward to working with UNDP in a continued partnership that supports capacity building and implementation of the revitalized peace agreement."
"COVID-19 poses a risk for people employed in the justice sector. It is an even greater risk for the users of justice services and people who are in detention. Police officers, prison officials, prosecutors, and court staff who resolve people's grievances, as well as the users who enter the justice system, must stay healthy and protected.", Evelyn Edroma stated.
UNDP is supporting the justice system to take additional precautions as employees face risks of infection when performing their duties in line with what policymakers have decided as essential services for the justice system to remain operational. The Judiciary has already scaled down its operations, and criminal cases will be heard as a priority, including through the deployment of Mobile Courts while the Police have added responsibilities to enforce a partial lockdown.
UNDP's intervention is also targeting the protection of prisoners, suspects in police custody, and juveniles held in reformatory centres where the risk of infection is notably higher, including the likelihood of loss of life and other human rights violations. To that effect, UNDP has also provided them with heavy-duty disinfecting equipment to disinfect places of detention in addition to hygiene kits to minimize infection risks.
At the Judiciary, Tarkuo Weah, Rule of Law Officer representing UNDP, handed over the protective and hygiene kits to the President of the Equatoria Circuit, Justice Stephen Simon, who represented the Judiciary. Upon receipt of the items, he thanked UNDP for the donation, especially at a time when the government and its institutions need support to contain and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in the justice institutions. He, however, urged UNDP to distribute the same items to courts in other parts of the country as the justice institutions remain operational.
In a related move at the Police Hospital, Ernest Yeboah, UNDP’s Law Enforcement Advisor, handed over the items to Major-General Akot, Director of the Police Hospital, who represented the Inspector-General of Police. Upon receipt of the items, Major-General Akot praised UNDP's support for the SSNPS. Prior to that, Ernest Yeboah had also presented to the Director of Inmates of the NPSSS similar items.
The supplied hygiene kits include washing liquids, sanitizers, hand washing water dispensers, and disinfecting equipment for both Staff and users. Other equipment to protect personal included infrared gun thermometers, face masks, and gloves to ensure the safety of frontline personnel from infection and job-related risks and prevent them from introducing the disease into the places of work.
The provision of hygiene and protection kits were accompanied by an awareness campaign on COVID-19 among justice institutions and law enforcement agencies. Tailored IEC materials carrying messages on hygiene and social distancing were also provided.
Moving forward, UNDP is working in tandem with the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and the Ministry of Interior to expand the partnership to all the ten states to protect the staff and users of justice services against the Coronavirus pandemic.