A report released last month has shown that more than 60% of households in the survey areas have experienced one or more cases of violent crime in the past five years. These crimes range from cattle raids, armed robbery, physical assault, murder, sexual assault, to abduction and torture.
The report by ‘Access to Justice: Perceptions and Experiences with Violent Crimes in South Sudan’, says that access to justice for violent crimes is severely restricted for many victims of crime.
“In almost three-quarters of cases (72.8%), the households simply did nothing in response to the violent crime; meaning that they did not report the crime to anyone and did not engage in self-help options, such as negotiation or revenge,” says the report.
The report further reveals that those with time and money have more chances of receiving justice than those without money. Cases in which respondents invested larger amounts of money into seeking redress resulted in a greater chance of perpetrators being jailed than cases where little or no costs were incurred.
“Access to justice is thus clearly not on an equal basis,” the report says.
The report investigated people’s perceptions and experiences with violent crimes in South Sudan, and the steps people take in pursuit of justice after experiencing a violent crime. It interviewed 1,912 people in Juba town, Juba Protection of Civilian site (POC), Wau town and Bentiu POC between November and December 2015.
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Restorative justice resonates with South Sudanese culture and values
It shows that restorative forms of justice resonate more with South Sudanese cultural and religious values, and that customary laws in South Sudan tend to focus on rebuilding relationships through reconciliation and compensation.
“Nonetheless, sentencing perpetrators to jail is considered as the most appropriate remedy for violent crimes overall,” says the authors of the report. “This may indicate people have less faith in restorative forms of justice than is commonly assumed.”
Many of those interviewed said they wanted the justice system to be improved, including by fighting corruption and training legal staff.
The survey reveals that a lack of information about available justice services and/or unavailability of reliable justice services are major barriers to justice.
“In almost three-quarters of cases (72.8%), the household simply did nothing in response to the violent crime; meaning that they did not report the crime to anyone and did not engage in self-help options, such as negotiation or revenge...When asked why no action was taken, the majority of respondents answered that they did not know what to do or where to go for support or advice (58.7%),” says the report.
Among other recommendations, the report urges the transitional government to ensure that rule of law and access to justice programming form an integral part of any post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization effort in the country.
It also recommends that special attention should be given to sexual and gender-based violence (SGVB) and tackling the widespread impunity for SGVB-related crimes. Additionally, it asks for investing in the capacity of customary courts, particularly in their ability to deal with cattle raids, “as cattle raids have become increasingly complex and linked to conflict and organized crime.”
The report was written by Rens Willems and David K. Deng on behalf of University of Peace, Netherlands, and PAX, an international organization that supports peace dialogue between rivalling communities and governments, to promote peace, security and collaboration.