The SSLS currently operates nine legal aid clinics across six of the ten states of South Sudan. In addition to its head office in Juba, the SSLS has legal aid clinics in Yei, Torit, Budi, Ikotos, Akobo, Renk, Yambio and Rumbek. The purpose of these clinics is to provide legal advice, mediation and courtroom representation to clients who would otherwise be unable to afford these services.
Such services have never before been available to South Sudanese. The prevailing model of legal aid in South Sudan seeks to provide legal services only in the most serious of criminal cases. In a typical legal aid case, the government or one of its international partners will provide funds to hire a private lawyer to represent a particular client accused of having committed a capital offense. This model of legal aid may be effective at providing a high quality of legal services at high cost to a very small number of clients, but it is not sufficient to address the myriad of challenges confronting the justice system in South Sudan.
By providing free legal services through a staff of full-time, in-house lawyers, the SSLS’s legal aid program seeks to tackle many of the systemic problems in the justice system with better coordination and at a lower cost. Some of the issues that our legal aid program has targeted include: unlawful detention and extended remand periods, more appropriate use of civil remedies and criminal punishments by judges and traditional authorities, the provision of legal defense for all people accused of a capital offense, and the protection of women and girls from sexual violence.