BY: SINDANI SEBIT, NAIROBI, JUL/15/2014, SSN;
The Part 4 of these series focuses essentially on the proposed judicial system in a Federal Republic of South Sudan. It outlines the basic aim of the judicial system, its composition and independence, the structures at the Federal and Federal State levels of the country; and the role of the Judicial Services Commission promoting the independence of the judiciary, facilitating the accountability and transparency of the entire judicial system.
The independence of the judicial system is crucial and paramount if the country is to uphold and protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens, ensure accountability, justice, equality and equity for all people regardless of colour, creed, tribe, ethnicity, religion and sex.
Therefore the aim of the judicial system is therefore to ensure that nobody is above the law and everybody is accountable for his/her actions according to the Federal Constitution and also to promote fair judgment, equal treatment before the law and protect all rights of the citizens regardless of their standing in the society.
The purpose of this article is therefore to provide the people of South Sudan with the basic knowledge of the kind of judicial system that will protect them under a federal system of governance as opposed to the current subjected judicial system in South Sudan. It is hoped that constructive feedback and suggestions will be generated.
Fair judicial system is important for any citizen of a country to enjoy his/her liberties and rights. Judicial system that is independent and based on transparency and accountability guarantees equality and equity, it promotes harmony, unity and togetherness because nobody will be considered to be above the low. It creates and ensures confidence among the citizenry because of the grounded belief that they are protected, their property is protected and that none of them will be subjugated, oppressed and denied his/her right to live, enjoy, marry, acquire and own property.
Therefore, the authority of the Judiciary in a Federal Republic of South Sudan shall emanate from the people and shall be vested in and exercised by courts and tribunals as stipulated by the Federal Constitution.
The courts and tribunals should be grounded by the fact that justice shall be done to all regardless of status of a person concern and justice shall not be delayed. Courts shall endeavour to promote alternative forms of dispute resolution such as reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms and shall ensure that justice shall be administered without regard to procedural technicalities and that purpose and principles of the constitution are protected and promoted.
On the other hand, the courts shall ensure traditional dispute resolution mechanisms shall not be used to contravene any bill of rights, promote acts that are contrary to justice or morality and not result in outcomes that are repugnant to justice and morality and that the traditional dispute resolution mechanisms shall not be inconsistent to the constitution or written law of the country.
Independency of Judiciary
The Judiciary in Federal Republic of South Sudan will not be subjected to any authority other than the constitution and law of the Republic. It cannot be subject to control or direction of any person or authority and the office of the Judge of the Federal Superior court shall not be abolished as long as there is subordinate office holder. All judge salaries and benefits shall be charged to a consolidated fund and members of Judiciary shall not be subjected to any action or suit resulting from anything done or omitted in good faith in the lawful performance of a judicial function. This is meant to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. It means that the judiciary shall be independent of the executive and parliament. It will have its budget and tenure of office.
Composition of Judiciary
The judiciary proposed here will include judges of Federal Supreme Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Federal State High Court Judges, Magistrates, Other judicial officers and Staff of the judiciary. The offices of the judiciary shall comprise the Chief justice as the Head of the judiciary, the Deputy Chief justice as Deputy Head to the judiciary, Chief registrar as Chief Administrator of and accounting officer to the judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission. The role and functions of the Judicial Service Commission will be outlined later in this article.
Structure of the Courts
The courts in the federal Republic of South Sudan shall be structured as follows: 1) Superior courts. The superior courts include the Federal Supreme Court, Federal court of Appeal and state high courts. 2) Subordinate courts that include the magistrate courts and court martial courts. The courts will be distributed according to the two levels of administration. Therefore at the Federal level, the following courts shall be established:
1. Federal Supreme Court
2. Federal Court of Appeal
3. Any other court prescribed by the Federal constitution such as commerce and trade laws, employment and labour laws at Federal level.
Meanwhile the following courts shall be established at State level of governance:
1. High Court
2. Magistrate court
3. Martial courts
4. Any other courts that are prescribed by state constitution such as commercial courts, employment and labour laws, environmental and land laws, etc
Federal Supreme Court
The Federal Supreme Court shall be the highest Federal court in the country and shall be headed by the Chief Justice deputized by the Deputy Chief Justice. Its composition will include 5 judges as will be determined by the Federal Constitution. This court is charged with appellate jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from:
1. Court of appeal
2. Any other court or any matter of public importance or interest
Federal Court of Appeal
This is the second highest court in the country and shall comprise of 18 judges as prescribed by the Federal Constitution. The constitution shall ensure that one judge is appointed to the court from each of the proposed 18 Federal states. If the number of Federal States is more or less than 18, the number of judges should also be varied to ensure that each state is represented by one judge in this court. This is to create equal representation and guarantee fair administration of justice in the country.
The court shall be headed by the President of Federal Court of Appeal elected by its members in their first sitting. The principal role of this court is to hear and determine cases from:
1. Referred from State High courts
2. Questions arising from interpretation of Federal constitution including electoral cases
3. Cases arising from interstate conflicts
4. Any other court or tribunal prescribed by act of Federal parliament
The state courts include the high courts, magistrate courts, chiefs’ courts and any other form of traditional courts.
This court consists of number of judges as prescribed by the state constitution. It shall be headed by Principal Judge elected by its members in its first sitting. Its fundamental functions shall be to hear and determine:
1. Unlimited jurisdictions in criminal or civil matters
2. Issues related to the bill of rights and fundamental freedoms
3. Appeals from decisions from tribunals and magistrate courts
4. Questions arising from interpretation of state constitution
5. Whether any law is consistent with or in contravention of the state constitution
The state parliament shall enact legislation conferring jurisdiction, functions and powers on these courts
Appointment of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justices and all judges
The posts of Chief justice, his/her Deputy and Judges of the State High Courts are constitutional posts and therefore subject to approval by the Federal Parliament in case of the Chief Justice and his Deputy and Federal State parliament in case of Judges of the State High courts. Thus the Chief Justice and his/her Deputy shall be recommended to the President/Prime Minister by the Judicial Service Commission, approved by the Federal Parliament and then appointed by the President/Prime Minister.
No person shall be appointed by the president to these posts without the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission and approval of the Federal Parliament. Any person appointed without following this due process shall be deemed to have been appointed unconstitutionally and therefore shall not be permitted to assume these offices.
Similarly the same procedure shall be followed in the appointment of Judges of the Federal State High Courts with the exception that the candidates will be recommended to the State Governor by the State Branch of the Judicial Service Commission and will be approved by the State Parliament before appointment by the State Governors. In this case the Federal President/Prime Minister has no powers to appoint any Federal State High Court Judge. Any attempt to do so shall be deemed unconstitutional and such appointee shall not be permitted to assume the office of judge in that state. This is to protect against corruption, nepotism, favouritism, equality and equal opportunity.
Therefore any person who intends to be appointed to any position in the judiciary shall present an application to the Judicial Service Commission either at federal or state levels depending on the position and the Judicial Service Commission shall ensure competitiveness and transparency in processing the application in accordance to the rules and regulations of employment as stipulated in the Judicial Service Commission act.
Qualification of the judges
In case of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judges of Federal Supreme Court, the candidate must have a degree from recognized university, has high moral character, integrity and impartiality and has experience of at least 10-15 years as member of superior court judge or distinguished academia, judicial officer or such experience in other relevant legal field. This is to ensure competency, integrity and respect.
For Judges of Federal court of appeal, the candidate should have at least a degree from recognized university, experience of at least 7-10 years as member of superior court judge or distinguished academia, judicial officer or such experience in other relevant legal field while for Judges of High court, the candidate should have at least a degree from recognized university and has experience of at least 7-10 years as member of superior court judge or distinguished academia, judicial officer or such experience in other relevant legal field.
Tenure of office of the Chief Justice and other Judges
In order to ensure that the Chief Justice and other Judges have confidence in their work and not to be intimidated by the powers that be, these judicial officers shall have tenure of offices which shall be prescribed by law according to retirement age or maximum tenure period of 10 years.
Removal judicial officers from Office
Judicial Officers may be removed from the office only on the grounds of:
1. Inability to perform the functions due to mental or physical injury
2. Breach of a code of conduct
5. Gross misconduct
The process of removal of judge shall be initiated by the Judicial Service Commission in accordance with rules and procedures prescribed in the act of Judicial Services Commission. This is intended to protect the judicial officers from undue interference by the executive and to ensure they perform their work independently without any pressure from anybody.
Judicial Service Commission (JSC)
This body shall be established so as to ensure the independence of judiciary system. The functions of JSC shall be to:
1. Promote and facilitate the independence and accountability of the judiciary
2. Ensure efficient, effective and transparent administration of justices
3. Recommend to the President/Prime minister persons to be appointed as judges
4. Review and make recommendations on the condition of service for:
• Judges and judicial officers
• Staff of the judiciary
5. Investigate and remove or dismiss registrars, magistrates and other judicial officers and staff
6. Ensure there is continuous education for judges and judicial officers
7. Advise the Federal and state governments on improvement of efficiency of the administration of justice
The JSC shall be guided in its work by competitive and transparent process of appointment of judiciary, equality, fairness, justice and promotion of gender equity. The JSC shall be composed of the following officers:
1. Chief Justice as the chairperson of the JSC
2. One federal supreme court judge elected by supreme court judges
3. One Federal court of appeal judge elected by the judges of federal court of appeal
4. One high court judge and one magistrate, elected by members of association of judges and magistrates
5. Attorney general
6. Two advocates elected by the professional association
7. One representative nominated by the public service commission
8. Chief registrar of the judiciary; as secretary to the JSC
9. Three public representative appointed by the prime minister subject to approval by the Federal Parliament
10 Out of the 13 members at 30% must women
The varied composition here is aimed at creating fair representation, pulling together varied opinions, democratic participation and ensuring accountability and transparency. Tenure of the members JSC should be 5 years except for the Attorney General and Chief of Staff.
In conclusion, the aim of setting up such elaborate judicial system is to bring justice and equality to the country. It is to protect the civil rights and freedoms through independent judicial system and ensure equal participation in the decision process of administration of justice. In addition, the system must be judged to be transparent, accountable and responsive to the people.
Furthermore, this is a deliberate attempt to remove corruption, nepotism, favouritism and preference that can work against the desire to have just system in South Sudan. Finally it is a deliberate course to ensure that the judicial system cannot not be subjugated, interfered with and made to be an instrument of oppression, subjugation and denial of fundamental freedoms and rights.
Article 5 of these series will focus mainly on the sources of financial resources for both the Federal Government and Federal states and how the federal resources can be distributed between the federal government and states. It will further illustrate how state resources can be distributed within the states. It will also outline the role of the body that will be responsible for financial resources distribution at the three levels of government.
Disclaimer: views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author. Agok Takpiny is a concerned South Sudanese in Melbourne Australia. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org