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South Sudan threatens punitive actions against striking judges

July 14, 2017 (JUBA)- South Sudanese government Thursday has threatened punitive actions against judges on open-ended strike should they continue to defy directives, saying the action of the judges across the country has crippled the young nation.

The Deputy head of Judiciary in South Sudan John Gatwech Lul said in a statement broadcast by the state owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation that the government would take administrative action against striking judges should they fail to return to work.

“For those ones who have not been dismissed and who are still on strike, we in the Judiciary, the leadership of Judiciary and the leadership of this country led by the President of the Republic Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, we are demanding that they come back and report back to work,” said Lul on Thursday.

The second figure in the leadership of judicial system in the country said judges should return to work because their decision and action has crippled and unable courts to hear cases across the country. The threat comes after President Kiir on Wednesday dismissed leading judges who spearheaded the strike and demanded higher wages and the resignation of the chief justice Chan Reech Madut.

“They have now crippled the country. We need justice to be administered. If they continue and this is … we are not threatening them, and we are advising them that if they continue, we will take action, administrative action against those who will still continue with the strike,” he added.

Lul claimed all reasonable demands will be fulfilled by the government.

The judiciary is a constitutionally mandated branch of the government that oversees the court systems and plays a critical role in the interpretation of the law. The challenge, however, remains that while it is an independent institution; the figure head of the Judiciary is answerable to the President for the administration of the judiciary.

In May, judges raised a host of demands, including resignation or removal of the Chief Justice, Chan Reec Madut. Khalid Mohammed chairperson of the Judges and Justices Committee said in a statement at the time they would go on an opened strike until their demands are met.

“We asked the president to ask the honourable Chief Justice to resign or the President should sack him, unfortunately, none of these two things happened. “Our open strike started from today (Tuesday). It is either us or the Chief Justice to go. No court in South Sudan will open unless the President removes him.”

Further, the judges demanded enactment of judicial laws, transport allowances, improved working conditions and the creation of court rooms to each judge across the country.

In response the demands, president formed a three member committee chaired by the justice minister, information minister and the minister of cabinet affairs to negotiate with judges. The committee met and concluded negotiations with representatives of the judges but result of which was not made public.

(ST)