September 3, 2018 (JUBA/NAIROBI) – South Sudanese authorities have arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured and ill-treated people to the point of death, despite repeated promises to release detainees, the campaign group, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Between February and July 2017, the group said, four men – Mike Tyson, Alison Mogga Tadeo, Richard Otti and Andria Baambe – died in detention due to harsh conditions and inadequate medical care.
It said the four men, who were arrested in 2014, were all held without charge, for alleged links to the country’s armed opposition groups.
“People in South Sudan have been arrested for their political and ethnic affiliations and are then subjected to unimaginable suffering – sometimes leading to death – at the hands of the government’s security forces,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
In a briefing titled “A trail of broken promises”, former detainees reportedly told Amnesty International they were made to drink water from the toilet and defecate and urinate in front of each other.
Some of the detainees claimed they were fed only once a day and, in more extreme cases, just a few times a week. Amnesty International said it previously documented the deaths of at least 20 people in detention between February 2014 and December 2016.
Several detainees, in a series of interview with the campaign group, gave horrifying accounts of what they go through in detention cells.
The ex-detainees told Amnesty International they were also denied access to their families and lawyers. In some cases, authorities seemed to deliberately make it difficult for their lawyers and families to find them, transferring them from one detention facility to another.
On 10 March 2017, President Salva Kiir pledged to release political detainees, before subsequently releasing about 30 of them in August the same year. He later reiterated his intention to free political detainees in December 2017 during the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and in June 2018 when signing the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between Parties of the Conflict of South Sudan.
The campaign group decried the arrest by South Sudan national security agents of Peter Biar Ajak, a prominent South Sudanese academic and activist, who was arrested at Juba International Airport on 28 July 2018 and has since remained in detention in Juba.
“It is extremely unconscionable that South Sudanese authorities arrest, torture and ill-treat people in total disregard for their human rights. The government must end these arbitrary detentions by immediately releasing the detainees or charging them with internationally recognizable offenses,” stressed Magango.
He added, “It must also hold to account all those responsible for these grave human rights violations and deaths in detention”.