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South Sudan says death penalty remains until constitution amended

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May 3, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan will keep capital punishment in place unless amendments are introduced in the country’s constitution, the chief justice said on Friday.

South Sudan’s chief justice, Chan Reec Madut (AP)

“The transitional constitution does not have a provision that prohibits [the] death penalty. This means that our judges will continue to rely on current laws until [such time] when constitutional amendments [are] made through an act of parliament”, the country’s chief justice, Chan Reec Madut said.

Madut was speaking at an inauguration function at the new office of the Constitutional Review Commission whose mandate has been extended for up to two years.

The chief justice appeared to be reacting to recent reports by different civil rights activists, who have joined with international human rights organisations, to call for the abolishment of capital punishment.

In a separate interview, Warrap state’s acting president of the High Court, Nyok Monyrac, who in April presided over murder-related cases in the capital Kuacjok, said that there was no alternative sentencing to capital punishment “by hanging” unless a constitutional amendment is made.

“There are three people who have been convicted in Kuacjok. They are now awaiting execution. All the processes are completed. The hearings have taken place and [the] judgment which established reasonable grounds for [the death] sentence has been made. They have now been sentenced to death by hanging in the proceedings because it has been proved beyond reasonable that the killings were deliberate. The convicts also accepted [the sentence]. In fact, one of the convicts said he had wanted to kill one of his targets but ended up mistakenly killing another innocent person”, Monyrac explained.

Two others, he said, were sentenced for jointly stabbing a person to death with a spear in Majokanyar, a local market under the administrative and territorial jurisdiction of Warrap state’s Tonj North county. He cited the 206 and 207 sections of the South Sudan Penal Code Act 2008 which states that people convicted of intentional murder should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

After the country gained independence in 2011, South Sudan was among 111 UN member states that supported a resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly that called for the removal of the death penalty.

Despite the move, courts in South Sudan have continued to sentence convicted murderers to death, rather than opting for life imprisonment.

“We have read a lot from the media and the activities of the human rights groups. There have been reports after reports but what can the judiciary do without laws. Our current transitional constitution allows [for the] death penalty because it has not [been] amended. We cannot do anything because cases are judged based on articles relevant to certain provisions in the constitution”, Monyrac said.

“Yes, we are aware that our country was one of the member states of the United Nations which endorsed [the] removal of [the] death penalty but there is a need to amend the constitution to reinforce what was signed at the United Nations, otherwise it will be a spoiled vote”, he added.

He explained that the criminal procedure act 2008, section 275, states that when a person is sentenced to death they are to be hung by the neck until he or she is pronounced dead.

The Warrap state-based judge said little was likely to change until the law is changed, adding that records at his disposal show that levels of crime have increased in Warrap state so far this year, with over 40 murder and rape cases already reported.

There were only 20 reported cases of murder and rape in the whole of 2012, he said, adding that Tonj East, Tonj South, Gogrial East and Twic had the highest crime rates.

In a separate issue, Madut said he had ordered the establishment of special mobile courts tasked with identifying and trying cases.

“This will help reduce concerns about cases that take a long time to be tried due to lack of judges or availability of defence lawyers. These courts move with advocates and [the] team of defence lawyers for those who could not afford to hire lawyers who would [otherwise be forced to] represent them[selves] in court”, Madut said.

(ST)

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  • 4 May 2013 09:49, by Peter Marko

    I do support the capital punishment. However, given how the legal system in our country is poorly organized, the capital punishment should only be applied in the cases that have been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, the punishment should be deferred to the life in the prison.

  • 4 May 2013 12:21, by Ayuiu Makuac Lam

    A crime country should be in touch with death penalty law. Start from:
    1. Dr. Riak Machar
    2. David Yau Yau and the
    3. Rests of suspect.

    • 4 May 2013 20:19, by Joseph Canada

      How about starting from Kuol Manyang Juuk who have been killing people followed by the rest of the Governors who unleash Military on civilians?

  • 4 May 2013 13:31, by gabe81

    This dead penalty is targeting poor civilians. How Many officials are making crime a day and they are free.What about those 75 corrupted officials, aren’t they criminals too?

  • 4 May 2013 20:25, by Awengditda

    indeed there is nothing can be done without the amendment of constitution by the law makers. in fact Mr. Nyok Monyrach is right to make the final decision according to the constitutional guide.



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