7 March 2019, 19:20 UTC
In a positive development, the Government of South Sudan has been summoned to appear before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on 25 March 2019 over the arbitrary arrest and detention of businessman and philanthropist Kerbino Agok Wol.
The South Sudanese government, and particularly its National Security Service (NSS), is allegedly responsible for widespread human rights violations including arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture and ill-treatment in detention, which are committed with rampant impunity. This is the first time ever that the South Sudan government has been taken to the regional court for human rights violations committed by the NSS.
“Amnesty International welcomes this judicial development which offers a ray of hope for the people of South Sudan who have endured seemingly endless human rights violations and abuses with no justice in sight until now,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
On 6 March, the East African Court of Justice sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, upon hearing an application by the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU), summoned South Sudan’s Advocate-General to appear before it on 25 March.
He will be required to explain why Kerbino has still not been presented before a competent and impartial court, 10 months after his arrest on 27 April 2018. He will also have to explain why the authorities froze Kerbino’s assets and closed his bank accounts, and why he was not granted formal access to his family, doctors and lawyers.
South Sudan’s Advocate-General will be required to explain why Kerbino Wol has still not been presented before a competent and impartial court, 10 months after his arrest on 27 April 2018.
Kerbino Wol was arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge after presenting himself to the NSS in response to the security agency’s summons. He was initially detained at the Blue House detention centre, which is notorious for torture and other ill-treatment.
Following a riot at the Blue House detention centre on 7 October 2018, he was reportedly put under solitary confinement, after which his health seriously deteriorated, Amnesty International has confirmed.
Several days after the riot, the authorities seized Kerbino properties and froze his personal and business bank accounts.
“This court decision could open up a much-needed alternative pathway for justice for victims of human rights violations in South Sudan because the national justice system has failed dismally,” said Seif Magango.
“The government of South Sudan must see this as a wake-up call and reform its national justice system and take its obligation to investigate and prosecute alleged human rights violations seriously.”
Kerbino Wol is one of hundreds of people illegally arrested and detained without charge by South Sudanese authorities for months, sometimes even years. Yet the release of detainees is a key pillar of the September 2018 peace agreement. While a few detainees have been released, many remain locked up, and arbitrary arrests by the NSS continue with impunity.