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Sudan Tribune

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UN condemns South Sudan police assault on top official

By Julius N. Uma

August 28, 2011 (AWEIL) – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has strongly condemned the alleged assault of one of its senior officials by police officers, less than two months after the Republic of South Sudan became the UN’s 193rd member state.

FILE - A police trainee demonstrates crowd control techniques and other skills during a visit of the UN Security Council at a United Nations (UN)-run training camp in the southern Sudanese town of Rejaf October 7, 2010 (Reuters)
FILE – A police trainee demonstrates crowd control techniques and other skills during a visit of the UN Security Council at a United Nations (UN)-run training camp in the southern Sudanese town of Rejaf October 7, 2010 (Reuters)
The UN said this week that its human rights chief in South Sudan Benedict Sannoh was assaulted on Saturday at a hotel in Juba, the country’s capital, by around 12 South Sudan police officers who beat, kicked and punched him while he laid on the floor.

After being held for five hours without charge he was taken to a UN hospital.

UNMISS spokesperson, Aleem Siddique said the behavior of the police was unacceptable and contravenes the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UN and South Sudan.

“The police act on the UN staff was totally uncalled for. In any case, it was contrary to the agreement between the mission and the South Sudan government as well as international treaties governing UN privileges and immunities,” Siddique told Sudan Tribune by phone.

The spokesman did not say why Sannoh was attacked and instead deferred these inquiries to the police.

A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that Sannoh, a Liberian national had rejected a police request to enter his hotel room.

According to the UMISS spokesperson, a staff member cannot be arrested and detained on the basis of an arrest warrant, without approval from the office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG).

“In principal, if an arrest warrant is issued to a UN staff member, the matter is brought to the attention of the special representative who conducts an investigation in consultation with the government of South Sudan before appropriate actions are taken,” he said.

Hilde Johnson, the SRSG reportedly raised the matter with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit and the country’s foreign affairs ministry, while investigations by the police are said to be ongoing.

When contacted on Sunday, Biar Mading Biar, South Sudan’s police spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the incident.

On July 9th, South Sudan officially separated from North Sudan as a result of the referendum held earlier this year in which Southerners voted almost unanimously in favor of independence.

The incident so soon after independence will raise questions as to the commitment of South Sudan’s authorities to upholding human rights and rule of law in the fledgling country.

(ST)