21 May 2020
Court hearings for more than 118 young people on remand for alleged criminal activity have been completed at the Juvenile Reformatory Centre in Juba.
The hearings began on 25 March as part of a national effort to reduce the backlog of juvenile cases awaiting trial and to decongest the Juvenile Reformatory Centre (JRC) as part of the national effort to prevent and respond to COVID-19.
The initiative was led by the South Sudanese judiciary in coordination with the Ministry of Justice, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, National Prison Service and legal aid providers.
The JRC was refurbished and inaugurated with the support of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in November 2019. Its opening marked a milestone in juvenile justice by providing separate and secure accommodation for young people who are facing criminal allegations.
Since its establishment, UNMISS has supported the National Prison Service to run the new facility by developing standard procedures as well as a training manual to help strengthen the delivery of juvenile justice in South Sudan.
To ensure that the young people could have their day in court and that bail could be considered as an alternative to detention, UNMISS helped the judiciary and other justice services to hold hearings at a temporary location within the Juvenile Reformatory Centre.
During these hearings, judges prioritized the review of cases involving less serious offences which led to bail being granted to 85 young people on remand which will help reduce congestion in the prisons during COVID-19.
The juveniles received free legal representation and support from social workers assigned by the National Prison Service. Family reunification and other support services were also arranged through close collaboration with UNICEF.
Overall, 95 trials were held, resulting in 15 convictions. An additional 40 juveniles were ordered to be released following trial because of insufficient evidence or because they had already served the time of their sentence.
The successful conclusion of these hearings is another step forward in improving the delivery of juvenile justice services in South Sudan and makes a significant contribution to the national-led effort to prevent and respond to COVID-19