'Mobile Courts' Coming to South Sudan

The country's chief justice hopes that they'll eliminate the criminal-justice backlog in the world's newest country.

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Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

In what Chief Justice Chan Reech calls "a step in the right direction," South Sudan plans to introduce mobile courts to solve problems related to a lack of judges and judicial infrastructure that have left some defendants languishing in prison for five years without trial, the Associated Press reports.

The world's newest country, which has only 120 judges to serve a population of more than 8 million, announced the new initiative this week:

In a June, Human Rights Watch issued a report that found that prisoners in South Sudan were often detained arbitrarily, often not charged with crimes and frequently not provided with lawyers for their defense. The report said some prisoners were detained for up to five years without trial ...

"If you go to the countryside, there are no formal courts. There are no buildings like this," he said from a hotel in the capital city. "And I said, 'If we wait for these courts to be built it will take generations.' "

South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan last year, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of war. South Sudan, which is mainly populated by black Africans, maintained that leaders in Khartoum, the capital of the mostly Arab and Muslim country of Sudan, neglected funding for core government functions like schools, medical facilities and roads.

Reech said the Ministry of Justice plans to launch the mobile courts initiative -- a traveling band of police officials, judges, and ministry attorneys -- in a couple of weeks.

Human Rights Watch said when it launched its report that an effective justice system "is a fundamental building block for establishing rule of law and accountability."

Reech said the mobile courts are a step in the right direction.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

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