Inmates behind bars at Yirol West Prison Center. [Gurtong | File]
By Waakhe Simon Wudu
JUBA, 04 September 2013 [Gurtong] – More than 200 prisoners on death row at Juba Central Prison in South Sudan are waiting for execution according to SSLS officials.
The SSLS says that eight men have been executed in South Sudan since the country gained independence 13 months ago with two men being hanged in August this year.
A Research Director at SSLS David Deng and Elizabeth Ashamu, a human rights lawyer has released a statement calling for the government to abolish capital punishment in the infant nation.
SSLS said that the vast majority of people being sentenced to death in South Sudan cannot afford legal services and there is no functioning system of legal aid.
Without counsel, defendants are unable to challenge evidence and to call and prepare witnesses in their defence.
SSLS referred to the death penalty judgment as “unfair” in the country and stated that; “since the right to counsel is a fundamental element of a fair trial, the Supreme Court should refuse to confirm death sentences of people who have not had legal representation.”
If government proves reluctant to initiate reform, SSLS has called for the civil society to take a lead on the move. It has also called for the South Sudan Constitutional Review Commission to prioritise the issue during the amendment of the permanent constitution exercise.
With this trend of execution, SSLS says that South Sudan becomes one of the active world countries exercising death penalty joining Iraq, Gambia among others.
Last month, Human Right Watch launched a report depicting deplorable conditions in the prisons in the country.
The report acknowledged by the South Sudanese Vice President Dr Riek Machar depicted numerous human rights abuses in the prisons that included torture, long detentions without trial among others.
Machar pointed out infrastructural challenges, insecurity, budget constrains and other political problems that hinder government’s efforts to prioritise the improvement of the prisons in the country.
In October, the United Nations member states will cast their votes on whether or not to endorse a moratorium on death penalty.