Home | News    Tuesday 25 June 2013

Rights group accuse South Sudan Lakes state authorities of unlawfully detaining, beating civilians

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June 24, 2013 (JUBA) – A US-based rights entity has openly accused South Sudanese soldiers (SPLA) of allegedly detaining unlawfully and mistreating, since February, more than 130 civilians in its Lakes state.

Human Rights Watch Director for Africa Division Daniel Bekele, May 29, 2011 (ST/Uma Julius)

The move, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a recent report, was in response to armed violence and inter-communal fighting that occurred in the state.

Soldiers, it said, rounded up dozens of young men, often detaining others if they couldn’t find the suspects they were seeking, and held them in harsh conditions for weeks or months without charge.

Witnesses told HRW that soldiers who made the arrests in February held the detainees in the Langchok military detention facility, about 10km from the Lakes state capital, Rumbek.

“At least some were severely beaten,” the body said, after it reportedly interviewed more than 15 former detainees and family members of current detainees, government officials and other witnesses to the arrests in the state between April and May.

“Having soldiers round up, detain, and beat civilians is no way to resolve conflict or to strengthen the country’s justice system,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW.

“Civilians should never be held in military detention or subjected to this kind of illegal, inhumane treatment,” he added.

The rights body, in the statement, also accused the state governor, Matur Chuot Dhuol of stirring up the problem, citing the arrest of 50 men from each side of the two villages involved in inter-communal fight on 10 February.

The arrest, it said, occurred regardless of whether there was evidence they participated in the fighting. Many of those arrested, it added, were relatives of people who participated, but had fled.

The human rights body, however, urged state authorities to “immediately” release those in detention, or prosecute them, but ensure the process is not in violation of their rights.

“Any detainee not released, should be informed of charges against them, be given access to counsel, and brought before a judicial authority,” partly says the 24 June release.

The detainee should also be allowed to see family members and receive any needed medical treatment, it adds, while urging South Sudanese authorities to ensure that no civilians are held in military detention facilities.

The new caretaker governor was appointed early this year, after South Sudan president, Salva Kiir issued a decree relieving the elected one, Chol Tong Mayay over rising insecurity concerns.

Soon after his appointment, however, Dhuol initiated a series of security reforms in the state, mainly using soldiers and other security forces to restore order in a region awash with cattle raids.

Gun violence in Lakes state since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, according to Human Rights Watch, has resulted in numerous deaths and displacement, thus hampering development in the region.

The new governor has, on numerous occasions, been criticised for his “heavy-handed” approach to restore law and order in the state, which many claimed undermines citizens’ rights and the rule of law.

The police, according to South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution, may detain suspects for 24 hours or produce them in court, and should promptly inform suspects of the reason for the arrest and any charges.

However, none of the former detainees who spoke to HRW were charged with a crime or had met with a lawyer.

“This kind of ‘rough justice’ violates human rights and undermines the country’s fledgling criminal justice system,” Bekele said.

This example of militarized response to crime completely ignores the established laws of South Sudan, he added.

International law, the US-based rights body stressed, prohibits all ill-treatment of prisoners, including corporal punishment and prolonged chaining of prisoners, while South Sudan law also prohibits disciplinary measures that are cruel or degrading or could compromise the physical or mental health of a prisoner.

“What has happened in Lakes state should be a wakeup call to South Sudan’s government and to international donors,” Bekele said.

“The military is stepping in because the police, judiciary, and prisons are failing to meet justice needs. But the solution is to bolster the capacity of the police and prisons, not resort to a militarized response that is violating people’s most basic rights”, he added.

ARMY REACTS

But Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson of the SPLA dismissed as untrue the findings of the HRW report, which was released on 24 June.

“I think the army has tried to maintain law and restore order in a region where cattle raids are rampant. It is the duty of the army to restore calm in inter-community fights,” he told Sudan Tribune by phone.

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 25 June 2013 06:22, by Ayuiu Makuac Lam

    Where are right body they are suppose to be beaten and arrest also. They are dramatizing politic to cause death, the toll in the state is provided by them.

    • 25 June 2013 06:51, by Peter Mading

      Lakes State are still searching for justice and justice remain at the hand of the powerful cliques. Human Rights or Human wrongs?? Do they have powers to remove Matur? Matur is a friend to President Kiir just like Deng Alor Kuol and Matur will just end up his live like Deng Alor just wait for a minute.

  • 25 June 2013 07:12, by Yuol

    they are not just civilians but armed civilians, therefore they deserved military detention camp. go hang with your right body

    • 25 June 2013 09:33, by Mapuor

      “The military is stepping in because the police, judiciary, and prisons are failing to meet justice needs. The only viable solution in the context of Lakes is to involve the army which is more or less organized than the other uniform services that are dominated by women and students who are studying in East Africa.Gen Matur is the son of the area and he succeeded in restoring law and order.

  • 25 June 2013 08:21, by Fundamental Change icon

    Lakes state has turned to be an ’Afghanistan region’ in RSS.No day passes without news of people being killed.Gen Matur should be indicted for the loss of innocent lives in the state.Kiir has learnt that by removing Chol Mayay he has even worsened the situation.Lakes state gov’t should be disolved and remain an ’administrative area’under WES gov’t or the central govt since they cant man.

    • 25 June 2013 23:15, by Lual Mayomdit

      FCI
      Have you ever been in Lake state?just to tell you that when ppl are insearch of raby dog you need to carry with you a stick.What Matur practice is to avoid more voilent and to that extend even God can do something or do you approve that clansing in Darfur to be human freedom?

  • 25 June 2013 08:29, by peter wade

    HRW have right in this report, YES, Salva Kiir and his Maj-Gen Matur have to know now that world is following their activities daily. Kill civilians and law will kill you in the nearest future. We pray to God to serve Manyang Mayom to expose all those wrong doing so that world could see our suffering. Iam fed up of Rumbek wrong ideas and self interest being imposed by Salva with is military.

  • 25 June 2013 09:35, by Mapuor

    The military is stepping in because the police, judiciary, and prisons are failing to meet justice needs. The only viable solution in the context of Lakes is to involve the army which is more or less organized than the other uniform services that are dominated by women and students who are studying in East Africa.Gen Matur is the son of the area and he succeeded in restoring law and order.

  • 25 June 2013 10:56, by New Government

    No SPLA or organized forces arrested civilian at their home. the authorities are dealing with those criminal and they cattle raiders, so if what your fucking human right are claiming to be unlawfully detaining or human right violation let them go to heel. no body get torture or detention without any criminal connection stop your fucked human right on lakes

  • 25 June 2013 11:14, by JONGLEI VISION

    Six days already gone without election-relect Mr.Mayay elected governor by People of Lakes State/ South Sudan while Gen Matur and his friend Gen Kiir are enjoying the humiliation of the Lakes State People. I don’t know what the people of the Lakes State/South Sudan will do to the Military Care Taker Governor. Let us recognise our right through nationwide to deal with these two friends.
    Regards,

  • 25 June 2013 11:33, by New Government

    @ fundamental it is not Matur who killed you may have political difference with Matur what he is doing now is to bring the rampant insecurity in state to the control and how do you do that, it is by enforcing heavy punishment on the culprits. Manyang should not report nonsense.

  • 25 June 2013 12:33, by T.Gabriel

    Who should now be given a chance to bring order to the trouble states? I think the government should now appoint human rights’ governors in lakes states and any other states.When Chol Tong was a governor, they were complaining of human rights abuses.Please cooperate with the government to find the way of addressing these issues since they are very complicated disputes.



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