A United Nations-supported mobile court has begun hearing cases in the town of Bentiu in South Sudan’s remote north, bringing legal justice back to the town for the first time in more than four years.
The court heard one murder and two rape cases marking the beginning of legal proceedings that will see 27 suspects go on trial in a period of two weeks, with some having waited a whole year for their day in court.
The mobile court comprises two judges, two prosecutors, one investigator and two defense counsels, and will operate from United Nations Protection of Civilians sites (PoCs).
The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) helped in refurbishing the courthouse within its existing resources and now, at the directive of the country’s Chief Justice, the court has been set up to try serious crimes committed inside and outside the Mission’s protections sites.
A senior legal officer from UNMISS’ Rule of Law Section, Anees Ahmed, says there has been delayed justice, or a complete absence of justice for the last four years, because of the war in South Sudan. His office works to protect civilians by ensuring justice and rule of law. Judge Mazen said the capacity of the judicial system in the country is minimal. He explained why justice has been delayed here in Bentiu.
The team of mobile High Court officials began their work at the partly run-down building just after 8 a.m., immediately settling down to their business of the day: studying files for cases they had scheduled to start on Tuesday afternoon-UNMISS