Customary justice training targets community leaders in Bor
19 April 2012 - In harmonizing traditional and legal justice systems, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Bor County Commissioner's office held a one-day workshop today in the Jonglei State capital of Bor.
Opening the event, UNHCR Bor Head of Office Kofi Dodzi Adossi said the workshop would address women's access to justice and resolution of land disputes as well as inter-ethnic clashes in line with the law.
"This is a part of the ongoing efforts to bring about peace and harmony in ways justice is being administered," Mr. Adossi said. He added that his organization had built a bench court in the county to strengthen rule of law.
"We would like to work together with the county to codify the customary laws," he said.
Maria Ferrante, a UNHCR associate protection officer for the county, said the training also aimed to help participants identify major topics that were difficult to deal with under customary law and draw remedies from the findings.
James Mayen Oka, former state minister of legal affairs and now a cabinet minister without portfolio, said the local government act stipulated that local cases should be settled under customary law if the situation allowed it.
"When a cow eats someone's crops," Mr. Oka said, "the owner should not run to court right away. This crime can be settled as agreed upon by customary laws of that community."
But Ms. Ferrante cautioned that such customary laws should not violate the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan.
"We want to make sure that those solutions, norms and ethics we give in the society are in compliance with the transitional constitution, especially the Bill of Rights," she said.
Absence of legal laws due to the civil war had forced people to resort to traditional justice in deterring crime, according to Bor County Commissioner Maker Lual Kuol.
But he said this occurred when the legal system was either non-existent or dysfunctional.
"Now that all the wings of the law are operating through chiefs, attorneys and the police, we have to live in accordance with the legal laws," he said.
The training drew in 65 participants from all county payams (districts), including chiefs, elders, youth, students, and women as well as representatives of UNMISS, the UN Development Programme, and INTERSOS.