Deputy Chief Justice John Gatwech Lull. (File photo)

Deputy Chief Justice decries shortage of judges

South Sudan’s Deputy Chief Justice, John Gatwech Lul, on Friday, expressed concern over the huge case backlog in the courts due to an inadequate number of judges.

South Sudan’s Deputy Chief Justice, John Gatwech Lul, on Friday, expressed concern over the huge case backlog in the courts due to an inadequate number of judges.

Speaking during a consultative meeting with the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs in Juba on Thursday, Gatwech said the judiciary is struggling to deal with a huge case backlog due to understaffing.

“We even told the press on Wednesday that the number of judges is not adequate. It is not enough when giving justice for all and then you have to go to all corners of the country because of lack of judges,” he said.

Justice Gatwech said there are also no court buildings in many places across the country to handle cases.

“There are no court buildings in many places, you cannot have judges to see cases under the trees like the old chiefs, even the new chiefs now have small Tukuls (huts) where they can see cases which are not existing and there are no judges in those places because there are no infrastructures,” he added.

For his part, Lord Justice James Ogoola, the chairperson of the Judicial Reforms Committee (JRC), said the shortage of judges has created a vacuum in the judiciary countrywide.

“When the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice talk about lack of judges in the judiciary, they are right,” he stated. “What has happened is that it has created a vacuum countrywide of statutory courts and to fill that vacuum, customary chiefs and everybody has come in and they have been doing their best in resolving disputes the way they know how.”

There are only 22 active judges out of 30 in the High Court and for the lower county courts, there are 19 active ones out of 43 magistrates.

In July 2017, President Salva Kiir dismissed 14 judges after they went on strike to demand better working conditions and the removal of Chief Justice Chan Reech Madut from the bench for ignoring their pleas to improve their working conditions.

The dismissal left a vacuum in the judiciary.