JUBA, (Xinhua) --
South Sudan is grappling with congestion in
prisons and other detention cells caused by a four-month long
strike by judges that has paralyzed the judicial system in the
civil war-torn East African nation.
Speaking during a
roundtable discussion on legal aid service in South Sudan, the
heads of the prison service and that of the Human Rights
Commission said prisons and police cells countrywide have been
filled to capacity due to backlog of cases in the courts.
Andrew Kuany Aguer,
Director General of South Sudan Prison Service said since the
judges downed their tools in May, living conditions of prisoners
across the country have worsened due to overflow of prisoners on
remand, putting huge pressure on the limited food and medical
services they offer detainees.
Aguer noted that the
country’s main maximum security prison, Juba Central is holding
three times the initial capacity of the facility.
He said the number
of inmates is increasing daily yet little is being done to
investigate and try the accused, warning that the congestion
could cause serious disease outbreaks if not addressed urgently.
“There are 906
inmates in Juba prison as of yesterday (Monday) while the
capacity of the prison is less than half of the number. The
capacity of the prison was supposed to be 200 to 300 but now we
don’t reject anybody coming in even if it is full,” Aguer said
“We are limping and
we are just waiting for when the (judges) problems are going to
be resolved so that they come fully to investigate the accused,”
South Sudan has a
weak justice system that has come under criticism due to
shortage of judges that has caused backlog of cases. Data from
the Judiciary indicate that the world’s youngest country has at
least 240 judges nationwide.
The situation was
even made worse after judges declared a nationwide strike over
administrative matters and poor working conditions.
President Salva Kiir in July sacked 14 senior judges following
failed talks, but the sacking failed end the strike.
Nyuol Justin Yaac,
Acting Chairperson of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission
said several petty criminals are currently languishing in
prisons and police cells due to lack of judicial services.
He urged the
government to address the concerns of the striking judges in
order to improve the provision of judicial service in the
“The issues in the
prison can be resolved by addressing and restructuring how legal
aid operates, and in that sense we can have more judges
expediting the cases of these prisoners in which some of them
have been detained because of petty crimes and if there are more
judges much of the spaces occupied can be freed up,” Yaac said.