By Deng Gai Gatluak
Juba – The high court’s Monday decision to hand James Gatdet Dak, the former Spokesman of rebel leader Riek Machar a death sentence and 20 years imprisonment, is illegal and politically motivated.
The verdict was made in violation of the supreme law of the land, the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (TCSS), 2011. The general principle of the common law is that, “any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is habitually considered null and void.”
Nonetheless, James Gatdet was charged of treason and sentenced to death and twenty years imprisonment according to section 64 read together with sections 75 and 76 of the South Sudan Penal code, 2008. However, these provisions of the Penal Code, 2008, contradict the provisions of the supreme law of the land under Article 21 (1) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011. This article limits death penalty and states that, “No death penalty shall be imposed, save as punishment for extremely serious offenses in accordance with the law.”
On top of that, according to Article 11 of the TCSS, 2011, “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.”
Similarly, an accused person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt is proved according to the law. Therefore, if the court proved beyond reasonable doubt that Gatdet was perhaps guilty of treason, then he should solely be charged of 20 years imprisonment, but not death penalty, owing to the fact that, death penalty is prohibited by the Constitution.
While I am a staunch die-hard supporter of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU), I believe that the truth must be told. As a concerned citizen of South Sudan, it is my constitutional duty to defend the Constitution. James Gatdet’s death sentence is a mockery of the supreme law of the land. The high court’s ruling is therefore political, not legal.
**Cde. Deng Gai Gatluak, law lecturer at Starford International University (SIU), (teaching constitution and administrative law) and a Member of the National Dialogue Steering Committee (Secretariat). He can be reached at; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Tel: +211950501111