October 31, 2013 (JUBA) – A lawyer representing the ex-secretary general of South Sudan ruling party (SPLM) has said the Supreme Court’s rejection of a petition in a case against the country’s president was the “final slap” on the rule of law and democracy.
- Former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum (AFP/Getty)
The Supreme Court of South Sudan on Monday rejected a petition filed in the judiciary organ against the president and chairman of SPLM by Pagan Amum, saying the latter has not exhausted all other avenues in search of justice.
But Samuel Dong Luak, one Amum’s lawyers told Sudan Tribune that the court ruling undermined the independence of the judiciary.
“This [Supreme Court] decision undermines the independence of the judiciary is a final slap to the rule of law and democracy in South Sudan [and] this has exposed the judiciary beyond reasonable doubt that is subordinate of the executive”, Luak said from Nairobi, Kenya.
GENESIS OF CASE
Amum, on 7 August, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, accusing the ruling party chairman, Salva Kiir, of violating the country and party’s constitutions when he suspended him and curtailed his freedom of movement and expression in reaction to his criticisms on how the president was handling national issues.
Kiir also formed a committee under the chairmanship of the former speaker of the national parliament, James Wani Igga, who is currently the new vice-president of the republic, to probe into Amum’s conduct.
Amum criticized the formation of the committee, explaining that the decision on his conduct should have been made institutionally in the party’s political bureau or in the national liberation council in accordance with the party constitution and sought justice in the Supreme Court.
However, after two months of scrutiny, the Supreme Court 28 October, declared its ruling in rejection of Amum’s petition on the ground that "the petitioner hasn’t exhausted all the remedies available to him."
Amum’s defence lawyers, who presented the petition to the Supreme Court in August, said they predicted that the court would rule in favour of the president out of fear, explaining that the behaviour of the court’s president, Chan Reec Madut towards them upon receiving their petition was manifesting.
“The Supreme Court set a very bad precedent by violating the Constitution, because of fear of being dismissed by the executive”, said Luak, citing Article 126(3) of the Transitional Constitution.
According to the Article, “The Supreme Court shall sit in panels of three Justices each on all matters; except that when sitting as a Constitutional Panel it shall consist of not less than nine members of the Supreme Court and be chaired by the Chief Justice,”.
The lawyer, who fled to Nairobi allegedly after threats from unknown people over Amum’s case, said the country was in “danger, if the highest court in the land can act like that”.
“The members of the Supreme Court couldn’t even do some research and understand that any rule or doctrine has some exception, civil rights under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution are upheld, not the Political Parties Act 2012 or the SPLM basic rules,” he said, stressing that the constitution was the mother of all laws.
“How can a citizen who is denied freedom of speech and movement by the president exhaust all remedies available to him?” Luak asked.
Through God, or what, if not the Supreme Court, he added
Meanwhile, Biel Buotros Biel, a lawyer and human rights activists said the Supreme Court, when hearing such a case, sits as a Constitutional Court whose main function is to ensure that constitutional rights of the people are protected.
“The ruling is a clear confirmation of the death of rule of law and Constitutional in South Sudan. First the President acted towards the Amum in a manner being unconstitutional. Pagan is the secretary general of a ruling party SPLM, and not of government,” Biel said.
“With such a ruling, the attack on the Constitution by the head of executive the president has been blessed by the Supreme [Court]. What is that to be exhausted? Has the Supreme Court of South Sudan become African Court on Human and People’s Rights where before a case is referred to, would say, local remedies would be exhausted?” he asked.
Biel, in an email to Sudan Tribune, further said the latest ruling from the Supreme Court showed that both the legislature and judiciary were “toothless” and easily succumbs to pressure from the executive.
“For how long will South Sudan continue to be under [the] rule of man captivity? We still call upon the judiciary to ensure that it renders justice to all without fear or favour. South Sudan was bought through bullet, blood and ballot and cannot be left to be dismantled by a small few in power”, he said from Washington, DC.
“It is in the best interest of the Judiciary to preserve the rights and aspirations of the South Sudanese people, stressed the lawyer.