Amnesty International’s Secretary General Pens Open Letter To South Sudan’s President

It seems that we sooner witnessed the free world run by a separatist, high-handed, entitled orangutan than the incumbent South Sudanese Government taking accountability for its part in the country’s security crisis. Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, recently penned a letter to President Salva Kiir Mayardit on 28th March 2017, calling on Kiir’s government to take action regarding the arbitrary arrests, prolonged detentions and enforced disappearances carried out by the National Security Service (NSS) and the Military Intelligence Directorate.

He urged the President to ensure that the detainees were released, or, if credible evidence of a recognised offence existed, promptly charged and presented in court. Additionally, he requested that South Sudan publicly disclose the fate and whereabouts of detainees who have been subjected to enforced disappearances, and to investigate the circumstances under which other detainees have died while in government custody.

Shetty went on to give further accounts of violations occasioned by the government, such as the enforced disappearances of individuals such as Lawrence Bagda Jube Arbamo, a captain in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), who was arrested by military intelligence personnel on 26th June 2015 in Juba.  He was initially detained within the Giyada military barracks but was later transferred to the military intelligence detention facility in Gorom. His family members have since been denied all contact with him or information of his whereabouts.

The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 (amended 2015) greatly emphasizes procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals, in which every defendant stands equal before the law. Article 190 of the Constitution allows for the President’s suspension of part of the Bill of Rights during a state of emergency, but prohibits infringement of the right to life and includes prohibitions against slavery, prohibitions against torture, the right to non-discrimination based on race, sex, or religious creed, and the right to litigation and a fair trial.

With a legal framework already in place that provides for the protection of human rights and prohibition of arbitrariness of the government, how then do these documented human rights violations come to be? The disconnect is clearly a result of the government’s complete disregard for the Rule of Law. UNDP states that the establishment of the Rule of Law is incidental to a country’s achievement of inclusive and effective governance, and respect for human rights, as its breakdown could lead to exacerbation of violence, tension, and fueling insecurity and criminality.

The objectives of the Transitional Constitution remain impossible if deaths such as that of Loreom Joseph Longie, a man who died on 17th July 2016 after having spent 22 months in NSS detention, persist.  During his detention, Longie was not charged or presented in court due to his suspected links with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO). He underwent insurmountable suffering at the hands of NSS officers who beat him, pierced his testicles with needles and dripped molten plastic onto his skin.

The UNDP’s Global Programme on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations aims to combat such draconian practices by dealing with the legacy of violence, increasing safety and security for all, building trust through accessible, effective justice and security situations, and improving the delivery of justice and security for women. UNDP’s strategy, though not currently plausible in the South Sudanese context, is not impossible in the long run. Will Shalil Shetty’s letter prompt President Salva Kiir to take action? It is unlikely given his track record; however, the American Electoral College DID wisely entrusts its national security to an orangutan. The impossible is possible in these times.