Public statement to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on closing civic space

As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights holds its 69th ordinary session, DefendDefenders and the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), call on the government of the Republic of South Sudan to respect the rights of its citizens to peacefully assemble, associate, and express opinions and views, strengthen the legal framework that allows citizens and civil society organizations to form and operate without any hinderances.[1]

Since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, restrictions to human rights and fundamental freedoms have led to a shrinking civic space as the environment in which citizens can organise and participate in governance is drastically closing. This is despite provisions contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, regional and international treaties, that guarantee the respective human rights.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) operate in an increasingly hostile environment. The government through the National Security Service (NSS) and the Military Intelligence (MI) use intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests, arbitrary and prolonged detention, torture, and enforced disappearance to silence dissenting voices. HRDs live in constant fear of reprisals.

The following recent cases illustrate these patterns, which are likely to intensify as South Sudan moves towards the election period scheduled for 2023.

  • On 17 July 2021, the NSS blocked and cancelled a constitutional dialogue organized by South Sudan Civil Society Forum.[2]

 

  • On 4 August 2021, the NSS halted a media stakeholders press conference meant to call for inclusion of the media in the Constitution making process. [3]

 

  • On 28 August 2021, security operatives arrested six activists and a bishop of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. The arrests came ahead of the awakening call by the People’s Coalition on Civil Action (PCCA) calling for civil disobedience.[4]

 

  • On 24 October 2021, a journalist was arrested and detained for one day after airing a story about the alleged harassment of members of SPLM-IO in Warrap State.[5]

 

  • On 25 October 2021, Radio Tamazuj reported that a journalist went into hiding after he wrote an article about missing civil servants’ salaries in Northern Bar el Ghazel state.[6]

 

 

Considering the above, the African Commission should follow up on its Resolution 428[7] and adopt a resolution that, among other things:

  • Strongly condemns all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Sudan, including attacks against journalists, human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations and humanitarian workers;

 

  • Urges the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to urgently initiate the measures required for the implementation of Chapter V of the R-ARCSS for the establishment of a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing as well as the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, and with the support of the AU Commission Chairperson and the African Commission; and

 

  • Requests the Country Rapporteur for South Sudan to engage with the African Union Commission and the Government of South Sudan with proposals on the operationalisation of Chapter V of the R-ARCSS;

 

  • Call on the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to open the civic space as guaranteed in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, and refrain from frustrating advocacy efforts to reclaim the shrinking civic space; and

 

  • Urge legal reforms pertaining to civic space, amending the National Security Service Act, which grants the National Security Service unchecked powers to summon, investigate and take particulars and depositions from any suspect and potential witness; arrest and detain suspects of crimes related to national security.

 

For further information, please contact:

Estella Kabachwezi, Advocacy and Research Manager, DefendDefenders on [email protected]


[1]Radio Tamazuj: Feature: Protest against government, a ‘right’ being restricted,  https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/feature-protest-against-government-a-right-being-restricted

2)Radio Tamazuj: Civil society condemns cancellation of constitutional dialogue by security:https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/civil-society-condemns-cancellation-of-constitutional-dialogue-by-security

3)Northern Corridor morning post: The NSS invaded a press conference in Juba violating press freedom and expression: https://ncmorningpost.com/the-nss-invaded-a-press-conference-in-juba-violating-press-freedom-and-expression/

[4] Barron’s: Six  activists and a bishop arrested in South Sudan: https://www.barrons.com/news/six-activists-and-a-bishop-arrested-in-south-sudan-ngo-01630158607

[5] Radio Tamazuj: Journalist spends a day in detention over news report:   https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/journalist-spends-a-day-in-nss-detention-over-news-report

[6] Radio Tamazuj: Journalist in hiding over report on missing public funds: https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/journalist-in-hiding-over-report-on-missing-public-funds

7) 428 Resolution on the human rights situation in the Republic of South Sudan – ACHPR/Res.428(LXV)2019, https://www.achpr.org/sessions/resolutions?id=459

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Public statement to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on closing civic space

As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights holds its 69th ordinary session, DefendDefenders and the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), call on the government of the Republic of South Sudan to respect the rights of its citizens to peacefully assemble, associate, and express opinions and views, strengthen the legal framework that allows citizens and civil society organizations to form and operate without any hinderances.

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