South Sudan and the Inhumanity of the Death Penalty

Posted: February 22, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, law, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Kur Ayuen Kou, Melbourne, Australia

Friday, February 22, 2019 (PW) — I am deeply appalled by the continuous use of death penalty as the best form of punishment in our fractured society. In a span of one week, South Sudan has carried out six executions on inmates, some of who have not exhaust all their legal options, including the right to appeal for clemency to His Excellency the President of the Republic. REST IN PEACE!

This is a worrisome development in a country that is preaching forgiveness, tolerance and peace. It’s very painful that the government can embark on this undertaking when it has other weighty state responsibilities.

As concerned citizen of our nascent Republic, we are call to duty when the responsibility knocks on our doors. The duty to protect, preserve and defend the constitution does not only lie with the government, it’s a collective responsibility of every citizen. Our national heroes including our President gave their lives to liberate millions of us from the bondage of slavery.

I am not writing for the sake of making noise, my writing on the subject is a deep-seated belief in the application of fair justice. I am writing to correct what is fundamental wrong in our justice system that I bored witness.

The course of justice that led to the execution of these citizens is a distinctive process which seem not to have been entirely observed. It starts with a police officer responding to a crime and conduct an investigation. Once the suspect is fully interrogated, he/she is presented before a court of law. Upon conviction, he/she will be sentence and convict to the degree of his/her crime.

The convict has the right to appeal his conviction to higher courts including the Appeal and the Supreme courts. After exhausting all legal options, the convict has the right to apply for pardon to his Excellency the President of the Republic. If clemency plea is rejected by the President, it would be automatically presumed that the President has confirm the conviction and sign the execution order.

In three of the six cases executed, these standards seem not to have been followed. One guy whom I will not name for the sake of grieving family was tried in absentia even though he was in prison as a remand prisoner for more than ten years. Three other individuals were still waiting for their appeal judgement, eight years since their conviction and subsequent appeal after fourteen days as the law requires. The appeal court, the second highest court did not pronounce any judgement prior to their executions. Have we now abandoned the rule of law, the cornerstone of justice?

These oversights amount to culpability and the weaknesses of the justice system in the Country. And the very reason why death penalty should not be carried out at all time. Fast it backward, two under age brothers were executed in 2017 in complete violation of their rights under article 21 of the South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution as amended. This article restricts the use of death penalty on any person under the age of eighteen.

These excesses affirm the UN General Assembly’s resolution 62/149 which stated that “Death Penalty undermine human dignity”. It further expounds that “any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty’s implementation is irreversible and irreparable”.

When it comes to our laws, South Sudan Transitional Constitution has those safe guards. The right to life is the foundation of all human rights. The constitution grantee it under article 11, Life and Human Dignity, “Every person has the inherent right to life, dignity and the integrity of his or her person which shall be protected by law; no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life”. but still state officers are not ready to do the right thing.

What is puzzling, from time to time and despite the glaring facts, there is a concert denial from the government about the use of death penalty as a form of punishment in the country. There is this narrative that South Sudan has never executed anyone since its inception in 2011. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

The secrecy surrounding all these executions indicated that the state is guilty of the practice. It’s inhumane and cruel to take out human life of which all other rights depend on. If you are not alive, you cannot claim any right. Anything that takes away human life from God gifted existence is tantamount to murder, the very thing that need to be corrected with that form of punishment.

Death penalty retentionist deterrent hypothesis is discarded long time ago. Countries that are still carrying out the death penalty on some of the most gruesome crime are still experiencing those crimes. It’s not the number of people that you hanged through state sanction killing that deter others from committing those same crimes. Human impulses determined action that lead to murder.

Resolution 62/149 of the UN General Assembly categorically declared that “there is no conclusive evidence that death penalty deterrent argument by many countries that retain capital punishment reduces crimes of murder from being committed in those countries”.

We are a progressive society. To be held in the bondage of historical form of justice as the best practices annihilate our best values as a society. Do we love to see human being struggling like a chicken, pleading for his/her dear life during the execution? With all the state power, his life is exterminated without his wish.

It is time to rethink as a country on the use of death penalty. I urge our leadership, Religious and Political leaders, our Parliamentarians who are the makers of our laws, the Executive headed by our President as the implementing authority of those laws to look at the logic of the use of death penalty. At the end of the day, you have two broken families and communities who have lost their dear one. One as a result of crime committed in what every form and the other one, a state sanctioned killing. We have been taught in school that two wrong don’t make a right.

We must, as a country revisited and revise those laws like the penal code and the code of criminal procedures 2008. The discretion given by law to nearest family member in section 206 (b) of the penal code 2008 has been repeatedly misuse and has putted so many innocent people at risk. Section 48 of the same penal code, “Acts Committed by Several Persons in Furtherance of Common Intention” is no exception.

This section is being use without clearly demarcating the element of action and intention of each accuse in the crime. As long as the prosecution and the complainant have bundled you together, be sure you will be convicted together. Criminal actions that constitute a join act must clearly be outline in the text of the laws. Leaving it to individual judicial officers to interpret has resulted into too many miscarriages of justice.

We all belief as a country that laws are made to govern society, not to be use against the people. Immediate corrective measures need to be undertaken to arrest the situation, to stop further executions.

I personally appeal to our President’s usual human conscience to invoke his moratorium commitment under the UN charter to stay further execution. South Sudan as member state of the United Nations have obligation under international law to subscribe to best practices that are moving human dignity forward. We should strive to uproot those gallows at our midst to the museums, not to be seen ever again. It must never touch human born.

In the absent of the constitutional court, I appeal to His Excellency the President to consider setting up clemency review committee in his office to advise him on existing cases of death sentences with the view to commute them to life imprisonment.

The author, Kur Ayuen Kou, is a South Sudanese Australian who lives in Melbourne, Australia and can be reached via his email:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. kailoor says:

    Your knowledge is always destined to NO without reasoning. do you know when those countries that stay behind human right you claim stop capital punishment in their own countries for us to jam our country with criminal of you kind? Yes under age can not be executed even our common wisdom had it that way, still there is exception to that as well. stop amassing negative criticism from afar.


  2. Malith Alier says:

    USA abandoned death penalty but reinstated it after learning that it was not the right thing to do. The campaigners against death penalty never teach America of the merits.
    Why should you not be killed when you have killed? Is your right to life more than that of your victim under the same constitution?
    Those who face execution in South Sudan are those who committed murders. No other crime is punishable by death penalty.


  3. kailoor says:

    Thank Malith, I have great hope for your reasoning, but still there is one thing; the reality check is that our industrial scale looters who had excelled in exporting our wealth to other countries have increase rate of poverty related diseases in the country, For example a civil servant who always attended his/her duty for the state have higher chances of his/child dying of treatable diseases and indeed many people have lost their dear ones in this mysterious circumstances: if it happen the 40 days of this criminal happen to loom, how would you judge him. First degree murderer I believe. Why would the killed Thon Ayii in the first place only for the wealth of the nation to be squandered by the few. execution must be extended to this lazy idiot who do not love to work hard but to enriching themselves with public wealth. Kou whom I doubt his return to Australia must know that dishonest individual will be affected shortly.


  4. kailoor says:

    In support of Malith Statement, a week ago, two truck drivers were eliminated at interval of time in Bhargel IN Gok states while they were indeed risking their life to ferry in must needed food after our selfish politicians deprived us off food that could have been abundantly found at home. They CULPRITS are enjoying their life in capital city Juba and relatives of their victims are grieving for the lost of must loyal world citizen and Kur Ayuen Kou pretend not to know this pain?


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