UNMISS supports work of military justice assessment team in Maridi

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Supported by UNMISS, an SSPDF Justice Directorate assessment mission in Maridi, Western Equatoria evaluated pending cases concerning uniformed personnel. Photo by Denis Louro/UNMISS.

19 Mar 2024

UNMISS supports work of military justice assessment team in Maridi

Denis Louro/Filip Andersson

"I am seeking justice for my daughter," Monica*, a teary-eyed widow and mother of five tells us.

Her 12 years old daughter was raped by a military officer while on her way to fetch water.

" Since the incident happened, no trial has been held. I am thankful to the team visiting us and hope that their presence means that justice will be delivered and prevail. Thankfully, my daughter is doing relatively fine and has received some medical attention," she continued.

The team Monica refers to comes from the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) Justice Directorate and is supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The delegation is here, in Maridi, Western Equatoria, to assess pending cases related to personnel of the army’s sixth division.

“We are not here to conduct trials, but to assess the cases involving suspects who have been detained and possibly crimes against civilians,” said Judge Advocate Peter Malual Deng Lual, adding that he and his colleagues will be scrutinizing more than 20 such cases.

The work of the assessment team aims to make it possible to prosecute members of the armed forces who are suspected of having committed serious crimes, including sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.

According to Mama Sarah Bennert, an activist and women’s representative, this represents a first sign of possible justice and accountability.

“Now, with them being here, we hope that many cases can move on to actual trials. The uncertainty and the delays of justice can be traumatizing,” she said.

To avoid the accumulation of judicial backlogs, civil society activists suggest that assessment missions to accelerate the legal process should be undertaken every three months instead of annually.

Idrissa Sylvain, a Justice Advisor serving with UNMISS, explained the peacekeeping mission’s decision to support these initiatives.

“It is in line with our mandate to promote the rule of law and accountability, in this case among the armed forces. An improved justice system will also contribute to South Sudan’s peace process, which is why we also do a lot of capacity-building among law-enforcing institutions.”
*Not her real name