Republic of South Sudan

Customary Court System

The Transitional Constitution – and its subsequent amendments – recognizes customary law courts, along with the institution and role of traditional authority, which were formally created by the Local Government Act of 2009. Traditional chiefs preside over these courts and issue rulings according to the customs, norms, traditions and ethics of each ethnic group.

Customary Courts rarely have the bottlenecks that the regular judicial system experiences, and this means that they handle an estimated 90 percent of disputes in the country, often delivering justice in a swift manner.

According to Section 98 (2) of the Local Government Act of 2009, Customary Courts do not have jurisdiction over criminal matters except for those cases with customary interface and only after having been referred by a Statutory Court. However, the Act does not define the criminal cases with a customary interface.

Consequently, Customary Courts they hear all kinds of cases including homicide that clearly fall outside of their jurisdictions. The local Government Act 2009 departed greatly from Chiefs’ Courts Ordinance of 1931 which vested the customary courts with full jurisdiction over criminal matters.

The Local Government Act 2009 provides four levels of the customary law courts.

  1. The “C” courts at the County level are the highest courts and hear appeals from “B” courts.
  2. The “B” courts are at the Payam level.
  3. The Town Bench courts are those courts that have the competence of “B” courts at town level. Their decisions are appealed against before County Judge of the First Grade.
  4. The last are “A” Courts at the Boma level, which mainly deal with family and marital issues.