The South Sudanese government must end arbitrary detentions by the intelligence agency under which dozens of men are being held in squalid conditions without charge or trial sometimes for months on end, said Amnesty International days before opposition leader Riek Machar is due to return to the capital Juba as part of a peace deal requiring the parties to the conflict to form a national unity government.
Amnesty International has compiled a list of 35 men arbitrarily detained by the National Security Service (NSS) at its headquarters in the Jebel neighbourhood of Juba. Some of the detainees have been held for close to two years, without access to lawyers and with very limited access to their families and the outside world.
The list, published as part of a briefing Denied protection of the law: National Security Service detention in Juba, South Sudan, includes a former state governor, a 65-year-old university professor, a Ugandan aid worker and a journalist employed by UN-run Radio Miraya.
“These detainees lack access to adequate food, medical care and sanitary facilities. NSS have also beaten detainees, particularly in the days following their initial arrest,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Regardless of whether the unity government comes to pass, the authorities must ensure an end to these dark days of prolonged arbitrary detentions that violate both the South Sudanese Transitional Constitution and international law.”
Amnesty International believes there are other detainees in the NSS headquarters and that these 35 men represent only a small fraction of those currently under arbitrary detention due to their perceived political leanings.
“These detainees and others held without charge must immediately be released, or charged with a recognizable offence before a competent civilian court,” said Sarah Jackson.
“The government should also initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into NSS detention practices and limit the agency’s activities to intelligence gathering and analysis.”