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Oral Intervention to HRC on Human Rights Defenders in South Sudan

Delivered by Rachel Nicholson on 12th June 2013

(Human Rights Council, 23rd session, Item 10)

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomes the High Commissioner’s report on South Sudan and its recommendations. We also take this opportunity to congratulate South Sudan for its recent decision to accede to a number of international and regional human rights conventions.

The government has made positive public commitments in the field of human rights. In this line, the decision to put forward South Sudan as a pilot country for implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity should be commended and followed through with concrete action. Continuing threats and attacks against journalists and other members of civil society demonstrate the urgency of addressing this issue. Isaiah Abraham was a regular contributor to a number of well-known news websites in South Sudan. On 5th December 2012, he was shot dead in a Juba suburb. Since then, UNMISS reports at least 18 incidents of arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment of journalists and other individuals.

South Sudan must ensure that such attacks are properly investigated and ensure that perpetrators are held to account, including where security forces are alleged to be responsible.

EHAHRDP shares the concerns voiced by South Sudanese civil society about the Voluntary and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations Bill currently before Parliament. The draft legislation threatens to hamper the work of human rights defenders. We urge the government to take into account recommendations made by the Civil Society Working Group on the bill to explicitly allow advocacy work on human rights issues and to ensure that its provisions are not overly burdensome.

Open and frank debate, including critical and divergent opinions, is vital for building up a peaceful, democratic and rights-respecting society. EHAHRDP calls on South Sudan to put in place legislation, policies and practices that promote freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and which create an enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders.

Thank you.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Pamela Angwench Judith

For most of her life, Pamela Angwech’s existence has always been a defiant and simultaneous act of survival and resistance. In 1976 when she was born, the anti-Amin movement was gathering pace, and her family was one of the earliest victims of the then dictatorship’s reprisals in Northern Uganda. Her father, a passionate educationist in Kitgum district was one of the most vocal critics of the dictatorship’s human rights excesses, which made him an obvious target of the state’s marauding vigilantes.