News / Africa

Hybrid Court Suggested for South Sudan

William Eagle
More than 50 members of the US Congress  including the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan are asking Secretary of State John Kerry for action in South Sudan. In March, they sent him a letter asking him to expand humanitarian programs and to help support some form of accountability to those behind mass killings and other human rights violations. One of their suggestions was a hybrid court, similar to those used in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor and Cambodia.
 
David Deng says the idea is gaining ground in the country’s intellectual circles and NGO’s and other international partners.   Deng, who is the research director for the South Sudan Law Society based in Juba,  said now’s the time to be talking about creating a special court– an acknowledgement of the scale of the crimes that have taken place since December.  That’s when fighting broke out between armed supporters of President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar.  The violence has displaced over 800 thousand people and forced to over 250 thousand to flee the country.  Tens of thousands have been killed.

Weaknesses of domestic courts
 
A hybrid court would combine international and domestic law, with trained staff including investigators, lawyers and judges.  Because of the expense,  Deng said they would be limited to trying the top dozen or so leaders on both sides of the conflict involved in the killings.  The court could also adjudicate crimes as defined by the national penal code, like those related to the destruction of property or murders which don’t rise to the level of international crimes. 
 
Deng said there are many reasons for considering a hybrid court.  He said the formal, or statutory,  court system has serious weaknesses and is only accessible to populations in urban areas. 

 
A prison in Ikotos, eastern Equatorial State. Observers say the country lacks the legal infrastructure to try international human rights violations.(Photo courtesy VOA/D. Deng)A prison in Ikotos, eastern Equatorial State. Observers say the country lacks the legal infrastructure to try international human rights violations.(Photo courtesy VOA/D. Deng)
x
A prison in Ikotos, eastern Equatorial State. Observers say the country lacks the legal infrastructure to try international human rights violations.(Photo courtesy VOA/D. Deng)
A prison in Ikotos, eastern Equatorial State. Observers say the country lacks the legal infrastructure to try international human rights violations.(Photo courtesy VOA/D. Deng)
​And, customary courts, which are far more accessible, do not have the capacity or jurisdiction to adjudicate serious criminal matters.  
 

"When we talk about international crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes,"  said Deng, "these are clearly outside the scope of what the customary system can handle.  Even the smaller scale conflicts between communities that have proliferated in many parts of South Sudan over the past 10 years are outside the scope of the customary system. "
 
He added that chiefs are lay people with little legal background  training and little support from the state.  Many counties have only one prison and incarceration facilities that fail to meet  international standards.
 
Deng is also not confident the government would launch an independent and transparent investigation.
 
"There are numerous examples," he said, "of investigations that have happened since 2005 when the government was established, where either nothing was done, and the committee did not conduct an investigation, or reports were compiled and were never made public, or facts were skewed."

Advantages of hybrids
 
 Hybrid tribunals can be established with UN assistance in a number of ways, including by a Security Council resolution,  or by bilateral agreement between the UN and the host government .  States may also try war crimes by incorporating international law into their domestic courts and inviting international personnel to oversee the trials.
 
A customary court hearing in Akobo, Jonglei State. The traditional courts do not adjudicate serious criminal cases. (Photo: courtesy David Deng)A customary court hearing in Akobo, Jonglei State. The traditional courts do not adjudicate serious criminal cases. (Photo: courtesy David Deng)
x
A customary court hearing in Akobo, Jonglei State. The traditional courts do not adjudicate serious criminal cases. (Photo: courtesy David Deng)
A customary court hearing in Akobo, Jonglei State. The traditional courts do not adjudicate serious criminal cases. (Photo: courtesy David Deng)
There are several benefits of the special courts.  Hybrids, unlike the International Criminal Court, can be located in the region – a factor that often increases its public legitimacy.   They call also try a wider selection of perpetrators than the ICC.  Domestic courts are also perceived as imposing  “victor's justice” against the losing side.  Hybrids can also improve national justice systems by providing training and experience for lawyers and staff. 

Deng said South Sudan has not signed the Rome Statute authorizing the use of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  He said president Kiir has also not signed legislation ratifying the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

Outside support
 
Deng said the creation of a hybrid court should be considered at peace talks being held by regional mediators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.   
 
"Each hybrid court,"  he said, " is different in terms of how it is introduced…In our context, I think it would definitely require buy-in from the partners of the negotiations -- the government, opposition parties….  "

"If the discussions and negotiations are brought in to include civil society or the former detainees,"  he continued,  "support from these various actors would be crucial with a view of getting a commitment in a peace agreement to some sort of process that would lead to an accountability mechanism like a hybrid court.  It can not be forced on people;  it has to be something that’s accepted by the parties, which makes it somewhat difficult to introduce particularly at this stage when no one is sure what happens , and everyone is skittish about accountability."
 
Deng does not rule out involvement by the African Union.  He said former South African president Thabo Mbeki suggested the idea five years ago at an AU panel looking into the atrocities in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
 
More recently,  the AU and the government of Senegal have set up a hybrid court to try the former president of Chad, Hissene Habre.
 
Deng notes that the AU already has named a Commission of Inquiry headed by former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obansajo to look into the violence.  Part of its mandate is to recommend how the country can hold accountable those who committed atrocities.
 
Human rights activists say some NGOs are documenting the violence now.  Deng said many witnesses are afraid, and may need protection.  But he said it’s not clear how quickly a hybrid court could start functioning:  he says they can only operate in a stable environment. 
 
And some critics ask how much cooperation the special court would enjoy from South Sudan’s leaders if the investigations move from lower level staff to the upper echelons of power..
 
Listen to report on hybrid courts
Listen to report on hybrid courtsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: alier mapiel from: gulu
March 31, 2014 4:17 PM
Justice must prevail in the end for those victims who lost their precious lives in this senseless war without a genuine cause.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs