South Sudan launches its first ever Children’s Court

November 8, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

By

Peter Louis

The Ministry of Justice in the world’s youngest nation has made a bold statement of intent to ensure that its children are tried fairly by launching its first ever ‘Children’s Court’ at a historic ceremony in Rumbek, the capital of South Sudan’s Lakes state.

The ‘Children’s Court’ will be housed in a brand new courthouse constructed by the international children’s charity Save the Children, with generous financial support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The new court will be presided over by Justice Michael Atem – a dedicated ‘Juvenile Judge’ appointed by the Chief Justice of the Republic of South Sudan. Speaking on behalf of the Governor of Lakes state, the Minister of Local Government, Hon Samuel Wel thanked Save the Children for constructing the children’s court. “We are telling you that Lakes state is very happy that you brought the first Juvenile Court here, because Lakes state is at the heart of South Sudan. We shall maintain it for the benefit of our children, and the children on remand at Rumbek Prison will be bought here soon” said the Minister.

The Minister also called upon Save the Children and other partners to support the Government of South Sudan to train traditional judges. “Traditional judges need to be trained on juvenile justice issues because many of the children who are brought to Rumbek Central Prison are summarily tried and convicted at community level by traditional judges” Hon Wel said.

For his part, the Minister of Gender and Social Development, Hon Ezekiel Thiang Mangor said “…for the first time in the history of South Sudan, we are proud to be fulfilling a very important constitutional mandate to protect the rights of our children. As a state, we are calling for a reformatory school so that we are not accused of imprisoning children” said the Minister.

A Roman Catholic Priest, Father Andrea Osman Okello, was also on hand to bless the new Children’s Court and the Judge who will preside over it. “Lord Father, through your goodness you have given this courthouse for your children. Let it be a place of justice and fairness for our children” the man of God said as he sprinkled water on the steps and doors leading up to the court.

Speaking at the launch of the court, Save the Children Country Director, Peter Walsh said as an organisation, their mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. “…This is a great breakthrough for the children of South Sudan, and we are extremely proud to have played a part in ensuring that South Sudan treats its children fairly, sensitively, and in accordance with the law” Mr Walsh said.

The Save the Children boss thanked the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its support, and appealed to them and other donors to continue supporting his organisation to enable it to build on its proven ability to work with the Ministry of Justice to establish Children’s Courts in every state. “…We believe that our partnership with the Ministry of Justice is a winning partnership that can deliver justice for South Sudanese children so that they grow up into an environment where children are respected for who they are, and treated like children by the criminal justice system” said Mr Walsh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peter Louis

Peter Louis works as a freelance Videographer and Journalist in the Republic of South Sudan. He previously worked for Ebony TV, South Sudan Radio and South Sudan TV, Wau.

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