13 November 2017

East Africa: S Sudan Dragged to EAC's Arusha Court After Firing Judges

Arusha — South Sudan government has been taken to court for interfering with the judiciary independence after firing 14 judges recently.

The July 12, 2017 decree to remove the judges has been deemed not only illegal and unconstitutional, but amounted to breaching the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) for which it is a member.

The Republic of South Sudan through its ministry of Justice have a case to answer after one of the sacked judges filed a case demanding reinstatement at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).

Justice Malek Mathiang Malek, who has served as judge for over 20 years, is challenging the Republican Decree of July 12, which removed the 14 judges, including himself.

The removal order was made following a nation-wide strike by some judges serving both the High Court and the Court of Appeal demanding the resignation of the Chief Justice Chan Recc Madut.

The CJ has been accused by some judges for allegedly being behind the deteriorating services in the Judiciary, including insufficient transport facilities and court rooms and poor renumerations. The 14 justices and judges, who went on strike on May 2, were subsequently removed on July 12, but it was not until July 22 that the applicant became aware.

But Justice Malek has challenged the removal, saying the independence of the judiciary from the executive is guaranteed under Article 124 (1) of the laws of the Republic of South Sudan. "The President has no powers whatsoever of removing a Justice of the Court of Appeal. It is in contravention of the Constitution of RSS and an infringement of the EAC Treaty," he said in a suit filed before EACJ on September 14.

He further argued it was a blatant abuse of power and tantamount to interfering in the independence of the Judiciary "and has had an adverse effect on the independence of justice".

On the other hand, the EAC secretary general who is the second respondent is accused of failing to undertake investigations on how the move has greatly affected the Judiciary and judicial matters in its partner state.

Justice Malek said prior to his removal order, he was not availed an opportunity to defend himself against the sacking.

According to Boniface Ogutu, the Clerk of EACJ, the Attorney General of South Sudan and the EAC secretary general were served with the notice on the case on September 18th and September 14th respectively and have 45 days each to respond.

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