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Rule of law in Rumbek gets a boost through monthly UNMISS forum on upholding human rights

A monthly forum organized by UNMISS in Lakes state, South Sudan, brings together local police, security actors, representatives from different courts, women and youth to deliberate on upholding the human rights of all citizens and enhancing rule of law. Photo by James Mawien Manyuol/UNMISS

LAKES - As South Sudan marks two years since the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity was formed, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) continues to support all efforts towards building capacities among rule of law actors.

In Lakes state, the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Human Rights Division conducts a monthly rule of law and human rights forum, in partnership with relevant local stakeholders. 

This month’s forum was attended by representatives from the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, the South Sudan National Police Service, as well as delegates from customary, special and high courts, women and youth.

The main aim of this gathering: Deliberating on transitional justice mechanisms; the role of the state government in upholding human rights; plus, recent challenges faced by rule of law actors with regards to protection of people’s rights.

For John Oziegbe, an UNMISS Human Rights Officer, it is imperative to monitor and report on human rights violations, including any instance of sexual or gender-based violence.

“For South Sudan to build durable peace, all stakeholders must ensure that the rights of every citizen, especially women and girls, are upheld,” said Mr Oziegbe.

The interactive forum witnessed free and frank discussions on transitional justice as stipulated in the Revitalized Peace Agreement, including unlawful detentions of civilians in military facilities, which undermines the rights of individuals to a fair trial.

For Daniel Lat Kon, state Coordinator of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) this is a serious violation of human rights.

“Civilians who have been accused of crimes must be detained by the appropriate authorities, in this case the police, so that they can be tried in accordance to the laws of the land. Military personnel have no right to detain or question civilian suspects,” stated Mr Kon.

Other issues discussed included appropriate handling of juvenile suspects as well as overcrowded prisons where inmates lack humane treatment, due to a backlog of pending trials.

The meeting concluded with a set of recommendations for improving justice delivery across the state.