Home | News    Wednesday 31 July 2019

Rights body urges S. Sudan to release detained airport officials

July 30, 2019 (NAIROBI) – A United States-based human rights group has urged South Sudanese authorities to unconditionally release six airport officials unlawfully detained without trial since November 2018, or else promptly charge them and release them on bail pending trial.

The National Security facility in Juba, also known as the Blue House (Radio Eye photo)

Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said the South Sudanese government should also ensure the ongoing revisions to the National Security Service Act incorporate basic human rights protections.

The national security service agents reportedly arrested the six individuals at various times in November on fraud allegations.

Those arrested, the rights body said, have remained detained unlawfully without authorization by any judicial authority since then.

“These cases exemplify how South Sudan’s government fails to respect the basic rights of accused people,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“South Sudan’s authorities need to respect due process protections in national and international law and should immediately release these six airport officials and if they intend to charge them, do so promptly,” he added.

The rights body said South Sudan’s national security service agents have, since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, been at the helm of abuses that include arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and other forms of ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances.

Security agents have targeted perceived dissidents, human rights defenders, and journalists, the group said on Monday.

The US-based rights body also documented the various incidences of abuses and torture of those in detention centers, pointing to what it described as the weaknesses in the country’s justice systems.

Yet under South Sudan’s laws, it said, all detainees, whether arrested by the police or the security services are accorded basic rights.

“South Sudan’s authorities should make the necessary reforms to curb the security agency’s broad powers of arrest, detention, and surveillance and ensure that detainees’ rights are respected,” Henry said.

“They should also lift security officers’ immunity from prosecution so that victims of rights abuses will have access to an effective remedy,” he added.

Under South Sudan’s laws, all detainees – whether arrested by the police or the security services – are accorded basic rights. The constitution provides that the person should be taken before a court within 24 hours of arrest. South Sudan’s criminal laws say pretrial detention should not exceed six months, unless extended by a court order.

The International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which South Sudan is party, allows pretrial detention only as an exception and says that it should be as short as possible and that defendants should be tried without undue delay.