Veteran judge criticizes blood compensation practice, says it’s illegal

Veteran judge criticizes blood compensation practice, says it’s illegal

Former High Court Judge Dr. Geri Raimondo has criticized the customary court practice that encourages blood compensation for murder cases, which was recently undertaken in Warrap State.

Warrap State government said on October 9 that it facilitated the compensation of 14 victims of communal conflicts with hundreds of cattle – in a restorative justice system widely embraced across the country.

The victims were killed in revenge attacks involving locals of four Payams in Tonj South County between 2019 and 2021.

Warrap government spokesperson William Wol Mayom said the local agreement was decided based on what is called the “green book” – a set of customary law provisions articulating that anyone who intentionally kills during conflict can compensate the bloodshed with 51 heads of cattle to a family of the deceased.

Wol Mayom old Eye Radio a total of 327 herds of cattle were collected and handed over to the families of the victims.

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Reacting to the move, former top judge, Dr Raimondo said any murder case that is decided outside the High Court is not considered, and that traditional courts do not have jurisdiction to adjudicate murder cases.

“The law is clear: any murder case is considered in the High Court, and any murder case that is decided out the High Court is not considered, and that court does not have jurisdiction, even in the reconciliation process,” he told Eye Radio.

The law expert added that even restorative justice and reconciliations between the families of victim and perpetrator must be done before a competent court of law.

“Any handling of murder cases in customary courts is illegal and unconstitutional in accordance with the text of Article 12 paragraph A, which says the high court shall have the following power and competent exclusive offence punishable with death or life imprisonment.”

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“Any court other than the highest court in which reconciliation is concluded without a letter from the chief justice is considered illegal.”

On September 3, 2023, First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar cautioned traditional leaders in Upper Nile against handling murder cases – saying it’s illegal, but the chiefs say the lack of constitutional courts in the rural areas are to blame.

At a Council of Chief Conference in Juba, when Dr Machar asked the chiefs if they were handling murder, some of the chiefs admitted to doing so.

But the First Vice President told them the practice is illegal arguing that it’s not their jurisdiction, but the judiciary’s.

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According to studies, the lack of formal judicial infrastructure throughout South Sudan has led to many criminal cases being brought before customary courts that are supposed to be subordinate and answerable to the formal, statutory courts.


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