Western Equatoria judges trained in courts and human rights

25 Nov 2011

Western Equatoria judges trained in courts and human rights

23 November 2011 – Continuing to bolster the capacity of South Sudan's judiciary, UNMISS Human Rights section conducted a one-day training for local judges today at the women's resource centre in the Western Equatoria State capital of Yambio.

Attended by about 25 payam (township) court judges drawn from five counties of the state (Tumbura, Nagero, Mundri West, Mundri East and Mvolo), the workshop followed an initial training in June.

Under the title "Human rights standards in payam court proceedings" the activity was aimed at educating payam court judges in basic human rights principles and standards in court proceedings, and enhancing their ability to deliver justice in compliance with law and human rights standards.

In opening remarks, Ryambe Benjamin Wani, Western Equatoria Director of Local Government, said the workshop would improve the work of local judges by identifying boundaries between customary law courts and the judiciary.

"We need to improve and upgrade the skill of our local judges and the judicial organ, which was missing during the war and was replaced by traditional leaders," Mr. Wani said.

He noted that most local judges lacked formal training, having been selected or elected according to local traditions and customs.

UNMISS Human Right Officer Mary Bindi said her office had observed irregularities in the way payam court judges conducted trials.

"Based on the observations of our daily monitoring of human right issues, there are a lot of lapses in payam court proceedings," she said. "Sometimes local judges are going beyond their limitations."

Mr Wani said traditional practices had been reversed following the South Sudanese government and state authorities were working to improve the legal system.

"The structures, powers and functions of the legal system need to be separated and defined to avoid overlaps between judiciary and traditional courts," he said.

Workshop topics included the structure of judiciary in South Sudan, power and limitations of high courts, county courts and payam courts, payam courts and the rights of women and children, provisions of the local government act on traditional authorities and responsibilities of traditional courts.

Acknowledging that he had no formal training in court proceedings, participant Noah Oyeile said the workshop had helped improve his basic understanding of human rights and court proceedings.

Richard Andrew, another participant, said he needed more training in human rights and traditional court proceedings.

UNMISS is mandated to support, strengthen, and build the capacity of law enforcement bodies in rule of law and human rights as well as the establishment and functioning of justice and accountability mechanisms in accordance with international human rights standards.