South Sudanese favor tough justice, study shows

South Sudanese favor retributive justice for crimes committed, an in-depth two year study found, following President Salva Kiir’s public apprehension about global justice.

After asking which was more important, restorative or retributive justice, 50 percent of respondents said that punishment was the more important. Only 15 percent said that compensation was more important, a study by the University for Peace from the Netherlands found. The study also found that 79 percent of respondents said that “those suspected to be responsible for abuses during the conflict should be tried before a court.”

Under the country’s peace agreement, a hybrid court led by the African Union is due to investigate war crimes in South Sudan. But in June, President Salva Kiir wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying that the hybrid court should be scrapped. While the transitional government again nominally agreed in September to see the hybrid court through, there has been little movement.

The report is an indication that South Sudanese favor justice that is sometimes tough.

63 percent of South Sudanese interviewed said that a person who is found guilty should be imprisoned, and 37 percent said they should be executed. Perhaps alarmingly, the report found that 52 percent of respondents had been victimized by an armed group or military actor. 

Interviews were conducted in November and December of 2015 in Juba town, the Juba Protection of Civilians site, Wau, and the Bentiu PoC. The University of Peace study interviewed 1912 South Sudanese for the survey. 

It concluded that both the government and SPLM-IO have targeted women and children “in order to undermine and destabilize communities that are perceived as opponents in the conflict.”

It also found there is little common ground among South Sudanese on what is the root cause of conflict.