Consortium of civil society groups calls for urgent release of Peter Biar Ajak, Kerbino Agok and other detainees
September 26th 2019 (Nyamilepedia)-The Network of South Sudan Civil Society Organizations in Uganda (NoSSCOU) has strongly condemned South Sudan’s High Court ruling on prominent human rights activist Peter Biar Ajak, and six other defendants – including businessman and philanthropist Kiribino Agok Wuol, saying their prolonged detention at the National Security facility is a ‘miscarriage of justice’.
According to a joint press release signed by more than ten civil society organizations, the group strongly condemned the arbitrary detention of South Sudan’s renowned human rights defender, Peter Biar Ajak and his colleagues, saying it goes against the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan.
“Instead of protecting the rule of law, human rights and democracy, the High Court convicted them despite the fact that they were subjected to long and arbitrarily detention contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan which shows that the decision of the judge amounts to enforcement of unjust system driven by anti-personal liberty sentiment, that devalues all human rights values upon which the State of South Sudan is established.”
The Network of South Sudanese Civil Society Organizations in Uganda (NoSSCOU), a consortium of over sixty eight civil rights organizations, releases the following statement:
- We strongly condemn the High Court’s decision which is perpetuation of state-sanctioned oppression as inconsistent with our Constitutional values as enshrined in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. This decision is the violation of the human rights law and obligations of South Sudan as it sends a clear signal that the rule of law and justice are not important in the country. The judgment rather sends green lights for the security officers to violate the Constitution and its values that they are not important in South Sudan yet our country aspires to realize the values enshrined in the Constitution.
- We should not repeat oppressive and discriminative policies based on the former Sudan that are hauntingly similar to the treatment of the South Sudanese activists and some members perceived to be against the government as used to be the case in the course of our struggle that forms the basis of our national history. From the Northern Oppression of South Sudanese based on the unjust and inhumane treatment by the Northern Regimes from 1983-2005 in which millions of citizens died and thousands incarcerated, which defines our country and explains part of its an unfortunate history of unjust laws and the same laws have been introduced that threaten this nation’s founding ideals of justice, liberty and prosperity.
- In reference to the Peter Biar and others’ decision, while the High Court was supposed to uphold the rule of law and justice, it enforces injustices that are facing the citizens day and night in the country. The judge succumbed to the security threat and personal concerns that lead her to making unjust decision contrary to the principles of Constitution of South Sudan.
- The judge and judiciary have become part of the history of detaining people and subjecting them to torture and other ill-treatments, creating an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship amongst activists.
- The decision of the Court is a threat to the freedom of expression yet the freedom of expression constitutes a necessary condition for the realization of other rights. The present case has clearly brought out the strong opposition of the Government of South Sudan against freedoms of expression and speech.
- It has corroborated the previous report of the killing of at least two individuals; the arbitrary arrest and detention of 58people (including five women); the dismissal from their workplace of 16 individuals, and several acts of intimidation, harassment, and other forms of violence which violate the South Sudan’s obligations under domestic and international human rights law.
- It also supports the views held by many that in South Sudan freedom of expression is highly restricted and we are heading towards absolute censorship. If a person like Biar Ajak is punished for having given interview then there is a great threat to the freedom of expression in South Sudan. This further explains the reason behind the restriction of media institutions and houses.
- “It is sad to see the judge upholding the charges are, which an attempt to criminalize free expression and the legitimate work of human rights defenders and activists as observed by Human Rights Watch,” says South Sudan researcher Nyagoah Tut Pur.
- The action of South Sudan in the present case is the clear example of the violations of her human rights obligations under International, regional and domestic human rights law. South Sudan is a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. South Sudan is also bound by relevant rules of customary international human rights law are which are also applicable to her.
- The Republic of South Sudan is a State party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and seven international human rights treaties. International human rights law applies both in times of peace and armed conflict. South Sudan is also bound by provisions of international human rights law that have attained the status of customary law.
- Under this framework, the Republic of South Sudan is legally bound to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of all persons within its territory or under its jurisdiction or control. Accordingly, South Sudan has the obligation to prevent all acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and abductions, as well as looting of civilian property, to take effective measures to prevent and promptly investigate violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, and to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of these acts.
- Additionally, under international human rights law, South Sudan is responsible for the wrongful conduct of individuals or groups not formally integrated into its defense or security forces when the latter are under its direction or effective control.
- The same body of law binds South Sudan to take necessary action to prevent, protect against, and respond through the provision of effective remedies to violence against activists, whether perpetrated by private or public actors.
- International humanitarian law applies to the non-international armed conflict in South Sudan. The temporal scope of international humanitarian law ends when a peaceful settlement is achieved, which, in practice, means not only the end of active hostilities but also the end of related military operations of a belligerent nature in circumstances in which the likelihood of their resumption can reasonably be excluded. Under international law, the Government of South Sudan is obligated to investigate serious violations of human rights and to protect human rights defenders.
- In addition, the current peace in South Sudan remains fragile, with many of the components of the pre-transitional phase as provided for in the R-ARCSS yet to be implemented. The continued oppression of the citizens is a sign that peace Agreement is not being implemented.
- The use of security apparatuses and the courts to sanction their actions is a sign that Peace Agreement is not yet accepted in South Sudan. South Sudan as a party to the Agreement has a duty to respect the freedom of expression which is fundamental to its effective implementation.
- We condemn in the strongest term possible to the use of security personnel to threat the judge and the decision of the judge to continue with the case even when it is very clear that under such circumstance, true justice in its true sense cannot be done. We urge the Government to open up space for all citizens to talk over the issues that affecting implementation of Peace Agreement.
- Will continue to defend the communities affected by the Muslim Ban. Armed with the knowledge that justice eventually prevails, we will continue to challenge this discriminatory policy and fight alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters and other impacted communities whose Constitutional rights are being violated. The struggle for justice has never been easy. But together, united in the struggle, we shall overcome and will continue to resist against any attempt at a Muslim Ban.”
NOSSCOU is a consortium of sixty eight South Sudanese Civil Society Organizations in Uganda. Its main role is to advocate for the upholding of the rule of law, human rights and democracy by the Government.
Members CSOs signed condemns the sentenced of Peter Biar and Kerbino Agok
1. All Religion for Peace International (South Sudan)
2. Africa’s Youth First Network (Tanzania)
3. Center for Peace and Advocacy (South Sudan)
4. Centre for Media Advocacy (South Sudan)
Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG- Uganda)
5. International Youth for Africa (South Sudan)
6. Nile Centre for Human Rights (South Sudan)
7. Nuer Women for Peace and Development (South Sudan)
8. Joth Mayardit Community Centre for Peace and Justice (South Sudan)
9. Mer Christian Women Fellowship (South Sudan)
10. Transitional Justice Working Group in Uganda
11. Gawaar Center for Human Rights and Transitional Justice (South Sudan)
12. Generation Identity Initiative (South Sudan)