South Sudan: Inaction on Dire Security Agency Abuse

(Nairobi, December 14, 2020) – South Sudanese authorities have failed to stem or investigate the appalling abuses by the country’s National Security Service (NSS), Human Rights Watch said in a report published today. Since the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013, the security service has carried out arbitrary and abusive detentions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and illegal surveillance, with little to no accountability or justice for victims.

The report,“‘What Crime Was I Paying for?’Abuses by South Sudan’s National Security Service” looks in depth at the patterns of abuse by the National Security Service between 2014 and 2020, and at the atmosphere of fear it creates. Human Rights Watch research identified the obstacles to justice for these abuses, including denying due process for detainees, the lack of any meaningful judicial or legislative oversight of the agency, legal immunity for NSS agents, and ultimately a lack of political will to address these widespread practices. These abuses have left victims with long-term physical and mental health conditions.

Transcript

Carine Kaneza Nantulya

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

 

When South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011 it established the National Security Service to gather and analyze intelligence and advise other state authorities.

 

However, today the security service operates far beyond this mandate. It has routinely used violence, intimidation, arrests, and torture to target suspected opponents of the government.

 

Anonymous Man 1

They opened the car and they pulled me inside. Some were actually tying my hands at my back, some were tying my feet. I was actually in the car for almost 48 hours. That's what happened to me, and I can say they are members of [the] security apparatus.

 

Carine Kaneza Nantulya

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

 

Our research identified three main detention sites used by the security service in Juba – Blue House, Riverside and Hai Jalaba, although none is authorized by law for detention purposes.

 

The National Security Service have even used residential houses for detentions. Detainees are sometimes held for months or years centers without charge or trial or access to their families and lawyers.

 

Those who’ve been detained in these facilities include suspected rebels, students, human rights defenders, journalists, activists, political dissidents, and aid workers.

 

Anonymous Man 1

People who are active, reporting things that are affecting the community, are the ones targeted.

 

Anonymous Man 2

They said, you are criticizing the president, you are criticizing the entire system of the country.

 

Carine Kaneza Nantulya

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

 

People we interviewed told us of beatings, being hung upside down from a rope, shocked with electricity, pierced with needles, burned with melted plastic, and even raped. Most were released without ever being interrogated, charged, or presented in court.

 

Anonymous Man 2

It's completely [outside] the law. The interrogation, and the way how they interrogate people during the investigation. // Individual detainees are always tortured. // The suffering inside the detention facility was very, very serious. You don’t have food. We don’t have water. We don’t have medication, treatment. Many detainees they used to die inside.

 

Carine Kaneza Nantulya

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

 

South Sudan cannot develop into a country that respects human rights and the rule of law with a security service that operates without accountability and egregiously abuses its citizens. To this end, the NSS must be changed.

 

TEXT

 

South Sudan’s new unity government should reform the National Security Service Law to restrict their mandate to intelligence gathering.

 

South Sudan’s regional and international partners should support NSS reform and insist on credible and independent investigations into their abuses.

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