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S. Sudan president denies killing of over 600 political prisoners

September 2, 2015 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has dismissed as “utopian” reports quoting his former deputy in government and party turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, accusing his government and army loyal to him of allegedly slaughtering more than 600 political prisoners.

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir voices his reservations before signing a peace deal in the capital Juba, South Sudan Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Photo AP/Jason Patinkin)

President Kiir, a statement from his office noted, was puzzled and could not believe the serious allegations labeled against his administration at the time his leadership had demonstrated political will to implement the peace deal which he signed with the rebel leader, despite reservations.

“The office of the president has received the news of the press conference recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the rebel leader, Riek Machar, in which he accused the government for slaughtering more than 600 political detainees with disbelief and utter puzzlement,” the statement dated September 2, 2015, and bears the official seal and logo of the office of the head of state reads in part.

The truth of the matter, according to the statement, is that South Sudan had no political detainees.

The statement explained that the only time when South Sudan had political detainees was in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt when 10 former government officials believed to have perpetuated the attempted coup were detained but later on released on bail and handed over to Kenya more than a year ago.

“Since then, South Sudan did not have any single detainee. This is a serious negative campaign even at the time when the government has expressed political will in the implementing the compromised agreement. The allegations of the rebel leader against the government of slaughtering more than 600 political detainees are utopian and exceedingly farfetched and wanting,” it added.

Kiir, according to the presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, challenged the rebel leader to disclose the names of the alleged slaughtered political prisoners, the family of the victims and where the alleged political prisoners were kept before being slaughtered without being felt by the population of Juba.

“It is unfortunate for the rebel leader to accuse the government of slaughtering none existing political detainees,” the statement noted.

South Sudan’s rebel leader, Machar, was quoted in the media as saying that over 600 prisoners were slaughtered on 25 August in Juba, a day before president Kiir signed the peace deal. Howver, no details of evidence about this serious allegation has come out from the rebels’ leadership.

VICTIM OF MASS TORTURE SPEAKS OUT

However, one of the survivors of an alleged mass murder on 25 August said he narrowly escaped death after all his colleagues were killed by security agents in the country’s capital, Juba.

A 42-year old victim from Eastern Equatoria state’s, Buddi county, said he was arrested with Dominic Lodai and Clement Lokeya, both were killed, together with many others in Juba by government security through collaboration with Ugandan authorities.

The victim, nicknamed John Simon, said they were detained in a place called White House (torture center) for a number of days before the alleged execution began.

“We were arrested in Kabong District of Uganda by Ugandan People’s Defence Forces when we were trying to seek asylum in Uganda. We were tortured and taken to Acholi Pii military barracks in Pader District,” Simon, who is currently in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, narrated to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday what he described as a "horrible" scene.

“We were then transferred to Gulu military headquarters where we were handed over to government of South Sudan’s security who took us to Juba and detained us in White House military detention center. We found over 900 other inmates. We were subjected to severe torture in the White House including physical assault, arm and finger twisting, burning, cold water. We were forced to sit on chair fitted with needles, they pricked our testicles and they sexually abused us at night,” he said.

He said while in the Whitehouse (torture center) he used to see one of their inmates taken away at night and they never returned.

“At night twenty of us were taken to Rajaf near the River Nile and they twisted the neck of everybody and strangled us and threw us in the river. I was the last to be strangled but I did not die. When I was thrown in the river I struggled and came out alive,” Carter said, with visible wounds below his ribs and eyes, which had turned blood-red.

GOVERNMENT ACCUSED

The rebels newly appointed governor of Imatong state, curved from Eastern Equatoria state also confirmed the arrest and murder of hundreds of innocent civilians from Eastern Equatoria.

“Indiscriminate arrests are going on in Magwi, Torit, Ikwotos, Buddi Lafon and Kapoeta counties. There are also massive arrests in the other two states of Equatoria. The government of South Sudan is guilty of mass extermination. I urge the human rights bodies to intervene and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Oyet Nathaniel, the armed opposition-appointed governor in Eastern Equatoria.

“South Sudan should be suspended from Human Rights Council pending investigation of all cases of genocide and human right violations and torture,” he said.

Rebels said the over 600 killed were people, mostly young men, randomly arrested over a period of two years and accused by government of supporting the opposition group.

(ST)