Joy in Bentiu following convictions and acquittals in latest mobile court session

Koang Tap Gatkuoth has waited for years to see justice for his brother. But now, that justice has been delivered, thanks to a new mobile court in Bentiu, supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Our brother was killed by these guys and I am happy for this fair judgement because, now the judge made it clear in terms of what they did, said Koang, shortly after Judge Peter Mazen had delivered his sentence, before a crowded courthouse that was occupied mostly by victims and witnesses of the crimes.

But there were also members of the community watch group � a body that worked collaboratively with United Nations police to apprehend the alleged criminals.

Another case is open for Mamko whom we now know killed our brother, said Koang, one of the more than 100,000 people that have sought sanctuary at a United Nations protection of civilians site in Bentiu, where the alleged crime happened.

Mamko, an alleged former soldier of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, was recently arrested on allegations of multiple acts of criminality and is now serving time at a military facility.

The UN mission’s Rule of Law Unit has been supporting the court in different ways, and Anees Ahmed, a Senior Rule of Law Officer from the mission was on hand to explain the sentences:

The reason for different sentences is due to different legal aspects and considerations � from the evidence given by the prosecution and the submissions by defense lawyers for each of the accused, he said. Afterwards, judge Peter Mazen evaluated the participation of the accused individually, and announced those years, concluded Anees, who was visiting the court for its second session, the first having happened in December 2018.

I am happy about the mobile court and fairness of the judgement, and I saw and heard for myself the sentences against the accused, and acquittals of the innocents, said Mary Nyanjang Bithow, a member of the women’s high committee in the Bentiu protection of civilians site, who found relief in the sentencing.

This will be my message on behalf of the members of our forum who were also victims of some of these crimes, added Mary, who said she had witnessed several cases of rape in the past, some of which were heard by the mobile court.

But there was some relief on the defence side as well.

Mary Chuol could not hold her excitement when she witnessed her brother Majang Thak’s acquittal because of lack of evidence for alleged culpable homicide.

These conflicts have traumatized our youth [so much that] even those who are innocently accused may physically look guilty. We thank the mobile court that’s punishing the guilty and giving freedom to the innocent, she said.

Yet, despite this rejoicing from members of the internally displaced people’s community, some people from Bentiu town and other surrounding villages are pleading to the Chief of Justice of South Sudan to help them resolve the growing crime of cattle raiding.

I heard about the Bentiu mobile court, so I came to present my case to the judge, said one elderly man, who preferred anonymity as waited for his case to be filed.

He is waiting for the day when the judges will be available for him.

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan