Cooperation between UN and local police in Wau reducing crime in protection sites
A new system of cooperation between United Nations and local police in the northeastern town of Wau is helping reduce crime and keep the community safe in the local Protection of Civilians site.
The new system involves ensuring that those who are alleged to have committed crimes within the sites are handed over to the local South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) to prosecute and process through the justice system.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan deputy Protection of Civilian site coordinator in Wau, Gordana Mitrovich says those living in the protected sites are South Sudanese citizens and therefore subject to its laws.
While UN peacekeepers provide protection to people in the sites who do not feel safe living in their own communities because of ongoing violence, the UN “cannot protect them from South Sudanese law.”
With more than 32,000 internally displaced people currently living in the Protection of Civilians site next to the UN base in Wau, the site is comparable to a small town with shops, schools and health care facilities run by humanitarian partners. Like any other town, and despite the presence of community watch groups, there will always be a risk of crime taking place.
“The process of handing over alleged perpetrators to the local police has helped reduce the crime rate in the PoC because people know that if they break the law, there will be consequences,” said Gordana Mitrovich.
Currently, an average of three to four criminal incidents taking place in the PoC are reported to police every week. The UN police have an assessment team which follows up on reported cases to ensure that proper investigation procedures are followed and to safeguard the full respect of human rights when handling cases.
According to UNPOL, about 300 criminal cases occurring in the Wau site have been transferred to local police since the site was established and approximately 50 perpetrators have been prosecuted and sentenced.
Mitrovich, who is also a UN police officer, said the strong cooperation between UNPOL and the SSNPS is helping to maintain public order, safety and security, both inside and outside of the UN protection site.
The Police Commissioner of Wau, Chol Thuc Chol, underlined that there is “cooperation and coordination” between the SSNPS and the UN police ensuring a “smooth running” of police duties in Wau.
Chol referred to the newly built police station and renovated police stations completed under UNMISS’ Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) saying that the stations would be instrumental in restoring peace and stability in Wau.
UNMISS is also supporting the SSNPS and the people of Wau through sensitization and workshops that promote confidence and build trust to bring peace and stability in the area.
Once a thriving city in the north of South Sudan, today many homes and shops in Wau remain abandoned following the June 2016 crisis, which saw thousands of displaced people seek the protection of the UN.
Cooperation between UNPOL and the local police hopes to restore law and order and build durable peace laying the foundation for the voluntary return of displaced persons to their homes.