Press Release: 15 July 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Re: SSHURSA Condemns dismissal of South Sudanese judges, calls on President Kiir to respect the independence of the Judiciary and immediately reverses his decision
Addis Ababa, July 15, 2017 (SSNA) — The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA) in strongest terms possible, condemns the unilateral dismissal of South Sudanese judicial officers by President Salva Kiir. On 12 July 2017, President Kiir unilaterally fired more than 10 judges who included some justices of the Court of Appeal and judges of the High Court. The judicial officers have been on strike; demanding for salary increment, improvement on their working conditions and relief of Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut. They believe the Chief Justice has compromised his judicial impartiality and becomes a source of their predicament.
President Kiir’s unilateral act of firing such senior and several judicial officers without due process of the law, is completely an unacceptable. The Order is not only an open interference of the independence of the Judiciary but also a significant insult to the dignity and honour of the Judiciary as a temple of justice. It is a misguided act which critically amounts to utter disrespect of the servants of justice.
The act has contravened some provisions of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011(TCSS 2011). It also breached some universally respected principles of the independence of the Judiciary, individual human rights and freedoms enshrined in the international human rights norms and standards under the United Nations(UN). By virtue of its membership to UN, South Sudan’s executive should respect the independence of the Judiciary. The independence of the Judiciary is one of the cornerstones of rule of law observed by any responsible executive of government and its other institutions.
Article 124(1) of TCSS 2011, provides for the independence of the Judiciary. Article 124(5), clearly spells that the executive and legislature at all levels, must uphold, promote and respect the independence of the Judiciary. Article 134(2) provides that justices and judges may only be removed by the President upon the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission(JSC). The same provision stipulates that such removal should be effected only on a recommendation for a gross misconduct, incompetence and incapacity.
On the current case, no any recommendation by JSC furnished to President Kiir on which he should have acted upon for his decision except the ‘kangaroo committee’ led by the Minister of Justice and made up of the other executive members. Those members included Minister Michael Makuei Lueth and Martin Elia Lomoro, of the Ministries of Information and Canbinet Affairs respectively.
Article 25(1) provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. In South Sudan, there is no law which stipulates that staging a peaceful strike by judicial officers or any person, amounts to a gross misconduct. The Presidential Order cited no single reason that warranted the unilateral dismissal of the judicial officers. The Order instead, amounts to a gross misconduct, abuse of power and institutionally organised intimidation by the executive against the Judiciary. Such executive behaviour is unlawful.
This is not the first time President Kiir acted uniliaterally to disrespect the Judiciary. In March 2016, he unilaterally fired the Deputy-Chief Justice Madol Arol Kachuol from his post. According to the interviews which SSHURSA conducted in May 2016 with some justices and judges within the Judiciary, it was clear that President Kiir dismissed Justice Madol without following any right procedure as established under the Constitution. Some judges quoted the President as to have acted on Justice Madol’s dismissal based on personal advice of the Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut. Many of the judicial officers believe that all the challenges which have been affecting the Judiciary, are as a result of Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut’s failure to manage the Judiciary in accordance with the Constitution.
SSHURSA observes that the submissive tendency of the Chief Justice towards the executive especially with the President, in expense of independent dispensation of justice, has profoundly compromised the independence of the Judiciary and the public honour it deserves. This has encouraged President Kiir to constantly interefere with its independence.
Article 1(5) of the Constitution stipulates a significant directive for all South Sudanese including President Kiir himself. That South Sudan is to be founded on justice, equality, respect for human dignity and advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The judicial officers who opted for peaceful strike, were simply execising their constitutional rights. They wanted to be treated with respect and have their demands addressed by the government through the Chief Justice. They peacefully requested to be afforded to work under conditions which respect their dignity and commensurate with their work. No law they have violated which should have warranted their dismissal.
SSHURSA calls on President Kiir to respect the Constitution, immediately reinstates the dismissed judicial officers, accepts their demands including the dismissal of the Chief Justice and his Deputy-Chief Justice. It is becoming apparent that both the Chief-Justice and his deputy are the ones encouraging the injustice executed against the dismissed judicial officers and crippling of the justice system in the country.
SSHURSA strongly urges again President Kiir to respect the independence of the Judiciary and always takes public decisions based on legally established procedures and in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
SSHURSA also calls upon the South Sudan Bar Association, South Sudan Law Society, independent lawyers, civil society and all citizens to openly defend the independence of the Judiciary and press for its reform.
SSHURSA is a non-governmental human rights organisation founded in June 2007. It focuses on human rights education, monitoring and documentation, constitution, rule of law, civil society and community empowerment, transitional justice and peacebuilding. For more information on this press release or about SSHURSA, Contact us through Executive Director Biel Boutros Biel, on e-mail: [email protected] or sshur[email protected]. Cell: +251985661853 or visit our website at: www.sshursa.org.