By Mut Turuk*
August 15, 2013 - The title of this article would raise a great surprise, particularly to the readers and the people of South Sudan at large. Our Chief Justice, Justice Chan Reech Madut is a renowned judge who was tasked with Referendum Commission which was mandated to supervise over the exercise of referendum that led into the independence of our Country. He is a qualified judge who holds a high degree in law. He has also served in the than judiciary of the Sudan up to the Court of Appeal with unquestionable experience. He is the third Chief Justice in the history of the judiciary in our country after Justice Ambros Riing Thiik and Justice John Wol Makec. The fundamental question that would be asked is how the Chief Justice has lost his integrity. Before I embark on my analytical explanations about the incident that took place on 7th august 2013 in the court premise at Juba, I would like to provide to the people of this nation some provisions of Articles in our Constitution related to the Judiciary Authority and how the Chief Justice could conduct himself when exercising his function or presiding over cases.
Article 122 (1) of The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan defines the power or authority of the judiciary as it is derived from the people of South Sudan and shall be exercise by courts in accordance with the customs, values, norms and aspirations of the people and in conformity with the Constitution and law, sub Article (2) of the same article provides the independence of the judiciary, sub Article (5) (a) of the same article also provides that justice shall be done to all irrespective of their social, political or economic status, gender, religion or beliefs. Also Article 124 of the Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary authority. However, Article 124 (4) provides a very powerful provision that the judiciary shall be subject only to the Constitution and the law which the judges shall apply impartially and without political interference, fear or favor. Furthermore, under sub article 7 of the same article provides a mandatory provision that justices and judges must uphold the Constitution and the rule of law which shall be administered by judges without fear or favor; they should enjoy such immunities as shall be determined by the law. This illustration or abstract is to provide our readers and the entire people of South Sudan with the provisions that provide for the mandate of the judiciary in the Constitution and what would be expected from the head of the Judiciary who is the Chief Justice.
Coming to the incident of 7th August 2013, a team of lawyers walked to the Supreme Court of South Sudan at Juba and I was among those lawyers who filed the constitutional petition on behalf of our client Mr. Pagan Amum Okech challenging the SPLM Chairperson’s orders restricting our client’s movement outside Juba and not to speak to media. We believe that the Respondent (SPLM Chairperson) in such petition has violated our client’s constitutional rights and freedoms as a citizen of this Country. On that date several houses media local and international were in the premise of the Court thereafter the petition was registered by the registrar or court clerk awaiting further directives from the chief justice. What is important in this article is the incident that took place after the petition was filed. The journalist who were present tried to capture some picture of lawyers within the court premise including filing of the petition as well as recording some short statements.
As we were waiting for further directives in regards to the petition and approximately after twenty to thirty minutes, suddenly and surprisingly, we saw the chief justice heading toward us under a tree where we were standing together with some journalists who were trying to take some photos and statements related to the petition. He (the Chief Justice) was running towards us in a hysterical conduct which made everybody frightened. He said to journalists (the Chief Justice) “take your nonsense, who allowed you to take photos and statements in court premise?, where is your accreditation cards?, he asked the journalist who were very much scared about the way his hysterical conduct. “Take the journalist’s cards and copy it, bring it to my office, the Chief Justice ordered a police personnel, he further ordered the police to delete all photos and statements captured by Aljazeera journalists” . He also turned to abuse and insult a group of lawyers whom I was among them, I reply to him in a professional manner of lawyers when they address judges in courtrooms that “moulana “an Arabic word” means “my lord”, “what is wrong with the journalists to take photos or statements in the court premise and yet they took your photos in your office?. What is wrong I repeated? He (the chief justice) turned to me in an insulted gesture asking “are you a lawyer?, I said yes, where is your ID?, I told him that I don’t have it now, I asked him do you want my license?, can I bring it to your office?, because I won’t want to talk or react to him in the same way he was talking to us. “He further insulted us saying “will anyone come to court with a neck tie and called himself advocate”. He did not cool down until one of our colleague who seems to be a relative to the Chief Justice decided to play the role of mediator which he managed to do successfully and excellently. Nevertheless, the Chief Justice continued to conduct himself hysterically and exaggeratedly. Shortly after that, he (the Chief Justice) ordered the same colleague of ours by calling him namely in our presence, Aljazeera journalists and other court’s users, who were watching such drama, saying “make sure that all materials, photos and statements are deleted” the Chief Justice ordered. Aljazeera journalists were detained for not less than two hours until some officers from CID came. Finally, the photos and statements were deleted in the presence of a Judge. Surprisingly and unexpectedly, this was the end of the Chief Justice’s incident.
Such incident, if the picture is clear to the readers, was what happened when Mr. Pagan Amum filed his petition before the Supreme Court. A lot of fundamental questions will come up as we are trying to analyze the manner in which our Chief Justice conducted himself. Among such questions are, whether or not taking photos and statements in the court premise is an offence?, if not, is it because the petition was related to the case of Mr. Pagan Amum?, if so, what make Chief Justice to conduct himself in manner like a police personnel?. Is he (the Chief Justice) the same judge who is going to preside over such constitutional penal that will determine Mr. Pagan’s petition?.
The conduct of the Chief Justice proves without reasonable doubt that he was acting on a political influence without considering himself as judge. Despite the fact that, he is going to preside over such petition pursuant to the Constitution. His conduct was a gross misconduct, non-impartiality which contrary to the Article 134 of the Constitution as well as Article 124 (4) that obliges him as a judge to apply the Constitution and the law impartially and without political interference or influence, fear or favor. His conduct was also a gross violation of sub Article (7) of the same Article that mandates him as Chief Justice to uphold the Constitution and the rule of laws and to administer justice without fear or favor.
The same Chief Justice was widely criticized in the Country as well as in the region in a separate incident last year, when he entered and sat in a courtroom during court proceedings of the case between Mr. Pagan Amum and Hon. Arther AKuen presided over by his junior judge to the extent that he interfered with court proceedings according to the eyes witnesses. Such act was an act of influence and interference from Chief Justice as a senior judge which is not allowed ethically and professionally. Subsequently, the case was later ruled in favor of Mr. Pagan Amum. Such conduct was also an indication that he was acting under political interference and influence.
With these two incidents, it is very clear that our Chief Justice has lost his integrity and because of the way he has been conducted himself. However, he has put the judiciary under question in term of its independence as well as the integrity and impartiality of judges is concerned. Such conduct demonstrated by the Chief Justice is amount into gross misconduct, incompetence and incapacity. These two incidents have shown that our Chief Justice is a politician rather than being a judge with integrity. As the result, he has shown his biasness and therefore he should either resign from the Judiciary and pave the way for other competent judge with integrity to provide justice to this nation or to disqualify himself from presiding over the constitutional penal which is suppose to determine the case of our client Mr. Pagan Amum on the grounds that his reaction to the presence of journalists was under political influence.
Mut Turuk is an advocate based in Juba. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org