28 May 2012

South Sudan: U.S. Report Accuses Country of Human Rights Abuse, Corruption

The United Nations has criticised South Sudan's government for its handling of ethnic fighting in Jonglei State. It says the army wasn't able to ... ( Resource: South Sudan Criticised Over Ethnic Fighting

Juba — A series of extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and other inhumane treatment of civilians occurred in South Sudan in 2011 as a result of conflict between the South Sudan army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), clashes with renegade militia groups or cattle-related disputes among communities, the US department of state's country report on human rights revealed.

Approximately 250,000 people, according to the report, were displaced in the country as a result of conflict in that year alone.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Right and Labor report, covering January to December 2011, also cites politically motivated abductions by ethnic groups; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, including prolonged pre-trial detention; and an inefficient and corrupt judiciary as other forms of abuse allegedly committed by the government.

Despite all these, "The government seldom took steps to punish officials who committed abuses, and impunity was a major problem," the report says.

During the same period, the US department of states report accuses the southern government of allegedly restricting freedoms of privacy, speech, press, assembly, and association, adding that even displaced persons were "abused and harassed".

"The government restricted the movement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and NGO workers were attacked and harassed. Violence and discrimination against women were widespread. Violence against children included child abuse, child abduction, and harmful traditional practices such as girl compensation," it noted, further accusing the Police and renegade militia groups of recruiting child soldiers into their ranks.

Also cited in the reports, were alleged cases of trafficking in persons; discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities and homosexuals; governmental incitement of tribal violence; and child labor, including forced labor in various parts of the country.

South Sudan became independent in July last year following an overwhelming vote for separation in the country self-determination referendum conducted in January 2011. The vote was a key part of the 2005 peace deal which ended over two decades of war between North and South Sudan.

ARBITRARY AND UNLAWFUL DEPRIVATION OF LIFE

According to the US departmental document, on several occasions, the government or its agents allegedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, specifically pointing fingers at the southern army, armed militias fighting the government and the various ethnic groups.

"In August, in Juba, men wearing police and military uniforms reportedly killed and robbed civilians, including a priest in Jebel Kunjur. Some members of these groups were reportedly arrested, although no investigations were conducted. In response to this incident, police intensified night patrols and imposed restrictions on movements after midnight in areas in Juba witnessing increased crimes," partly reads the report.

Also, numerous people, including women and children were allegedly abducted or disappeared mainly from conflict zones such as Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Western Equatoria state in South between January to December last year.

"On July 25, President Salva Kiir ordered the arrest of General Mariel, who was charged with involvement in the April disappearance of an engineer named John Luis Silvio. Silvio disappeared after being ordered to appear before General Mariel Nuor Jok, the former director of the Public Security and Criminal Investigation Department. Silvio had been summoned in connection with a disputed plot of land," it noted.

In another instance, the report says on July 7, prior to the July 9 independence of South Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the state government in Wau, the Western Bahr el Ghazal state capital of "involvement" in the disappearance of Al-Shayk Foud Richard, the secretary general of the South Sudan Islamic Council in the state, which the government reportedly denied.

To-date, however, the report says justice has not genuinely prevailed on the perpetrators arrested for crimes committed against the innocent people. The report also faults the country's transitional constitution, which came into effect on July 09, for its alleged failure to protect those arbitrary arrest and detention without charge, yet prohibited by law.

LACK OF MEDIA FREEDOM

Meanwhile, the government security forces have been in the spotlight for confiscating or damaged journalists' cameras and equipment, demanded photography permits from journalists, and restricted their movements, particularly prior to independence.

"On November 2, security forces arrested without charge Ngor Aguot Garang, editor of the English-language daily Destiny, following an October 26 article in the newspaper that criticized President Kiir. The newspaper was suspended, and on November 5, Dengdit Ayok, the deputy editor of Destiny and author of the article, was also arrested and suspended from working as a journalist. On November 18, both journalists were released. Garang claimed that he was beaten and tortured while in detention," it says.

CORRUPTION AND LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

While the country's transitional constitution provides criminal penalties for acts of corruption, the US departmental dossier on human rights, accused the southern government of allegedly failure effectively implement the law, and officials continued to "engage in corrupt practices with impunity."

"Although President Kiir publicly criticized corruption, it was a problem in all branches of government and was compounded by poor record keeping, lax accounting procedures, and the pending status of corrective legislation within the country," the report says.

According to the report, the country's Anti-Corruption Commission does not have enough mandate to prosecute those implicated in corruption-related practices, instead saying the Justice ministry wields more powers than the former.

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