Sudan: Opportunity to investigate Darfur chemical attacks must not be squandered

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Press Release

 
Member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must demand a proper investigation into alleged chemical attacks by Sudanese government forces in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, said Amnesty International today, as the OPCW’s Executive Council begins its four-day meeting in The Hague.
 
In a shocking report published in September 2016, Amnesty International revealed credible evidence of the repeated use of what are believed to be chemical weapons, against civilians, including very young children, from January to August 2016.
 
“These brutal attacks left an estimated 200 to 250 people dead and scores more with horrific injuries, and the OPCW must fully and independently investigate them. Failure by member states to trigger the investigation would be a monumental and shameful abdication of duty,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
 
“Some states have expressed concern at this cruel use of chemical agents on civilians, but that is not enough. They must ensure concrete steps are taken to determine the full nature and extent of Sudan’s chemical weapons programme, and demand that Sudan fully cooperates with the OPCW.”
 
Amnesty International is calling on member states to seek clarification from the Sudanese government on the alleged chemical attacks in Jebel Marra. In the absence of this clarification, member states should request an on-site challenge inspection in accordance with Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
 
The international community must also apply political pressure on the Government of Sudan to ensure that it permits United Nations and African Union peacekeepers, as well as aid agencies, unfettered access to Jebel Marra, to provide vital humanitarian assistance, establish operating bases and implement proactive patrols.
 
For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Seif Magango, +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or email seif.magango@amnesty.org
Ends/

Sudan must end politically-motivated attacks on Darfuri students

18 January 2017

The Sudanese government must end politically-motivated and sometimes deadly attacks on Darfuri students at universities across the country, said Amnesty International today as it released a report covering a wave of attacks spanning three years.

“Dozens of students have been killed, injured and expelled from universities since 2014 for organizing around and speaking out against human rights violations in Darfur,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“This continues an appalling pattern that continues to see Darfuri students being subject to arrest, detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment, since the conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003, often compromising their continued access to higher education.”

“These deliberate and shameful attacks on students are totally unacceptable and must be brought to a speedy end.”

According to the report, the attacks are mostly carried out by agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) and student supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), also sometimes referred to as “Jihad Units.”

These deliberate and shameful attacks on students are totally unacceptable and must be brought to a speedy end.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
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On 31 January 2016, the NISS, working with ruling party-affiliated students, violently disrupted a peaceful seminar at El Geneina University organized by students affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdul Wahid Al Nur (SLM/AW), an armed opposition group. One student, Salah al-Din Qamar Ibrahim, was killed, and a number of others seriously injured. According to an eyewitness, Qamar, a fourth-year economics student, died after a security agent hit him on the head with an iron bar and a rifle butt.

In a separate incident, Salma (not her real name), a member of the Darfur Female Students’ Association at the University of Khartoum, was arrested twice in 2014 for campaigning against the forced eviction of female Darfuri students from their housing complex. During her first arrest and interrogation in March, she was insulted, beaten with batons and a rifle butt, hose pipes and sticks, and tortured with electric shocks. The second time, in October, she was drugged and raped by four intelligence officers at their offices in Khartoum.

“I woke up and found myself laying on the bed naked. All four security officers were there looking at me, and then one of them showed me a video clip of them raping me,” she told Amnesty International from exile.

Another student, Abdel, was arrested when security agents and pro-government students wielding knives, iron bars and machine guns broke up a peaceful protest by Darfuri students at El Geneina University in January 2016. He said: “They mercilessly beat me with a black plastic water pipe all over my body, on my bare back and feet.”

This suppression of Darfuri students’ rights to expression and association – as well as the interruption of their education – cannot be tolerated.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
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Amnesty International researchers carried out 84 interviews between October 2015 and October 2016 for the report, including with 52 students from 14 universities across Sudan, 32 lawyers, activists, journalists and academics.

The majority of the students were interviewed in exile, having fled abroad to continue their education after they were expelled or subjected to other forms of persecution in Sudan.

Some of them told Amnesty International that their attackers accused them of supporting armed groups fighting the government, an accusation they deny. Others said they were targeted for demanding the full implementation of a fee-exemption policy for Darfuri students agreed to by the Sudanese government during peace talks with Darfuri armed groups in 2006 and 2011.

“This suppression of Darfuri students’ rights to expression and association – as well as the interruption of their education – cannot be tolerated. The government must fully investigate and bring those responsible to account, as well as ensure effective remedies for victims, including by guaranteeing full access to reparations,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

“The government must also take measures to reduce the intelligence agency’s unfettered powers of arrest and detention, and establish a judicial mechanism to oversee it in order to stop these gross excesses.”

This report is released only days after the US government issued an order easing sanctions against the Sudanese government.

“The US ordering the easing of sanctions against Sudan must not lead to the international community letting the government off the hook for its appalling human rights record, including these horrific abuses against students and the use of chemical weapons that we reported on last September.

„The international community’s silence on rights abuses in Sudan would send a strong message that the people of Sudan don’t matter in the wider context of the fight against terrorism,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

Background

Thirteen years since the conflict in Darfur first broke out in 2003, security forces continue to commit serious violations of human rights in the region.

A new offensive launched in 2016 against armed opposition groups in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region has seen government forces use excessive force, including what appear to be chemical weapons. They have also carried out widespread killings, and displaced more than 160,000 people from their homes.

The Darfur situation was referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council in 2005 and an arrest warrant issued for President Omar Al Bashir in 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but he remains at large over seven years later.

Security agents have targeted students from Darfur in particular, using the armed conflict both an excuse and a mask for human rights violations.

South Sudan: Deliberate killings by government troops as UN forces fail to protect civilians

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE  
  
·        Guns turned on civilians
·        Targeted killings and rape
·        UN failure to adequately protect civilians
·        Call for arms embargo
 
South Sudanese government forces are responsible for deliberately killing civilians, raping women and girls and looting property in July in Juba, the country’s capital, Amnesty International said in a new report launched today.
 
South Sudanese government troops killed men from the Nuer ethnic group, raped women and girls, and carried out a massive campaign of pillage,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
 
These attacks by government forces are further proof of the urgent need to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, with the aim of stopping the flow of weapons, and establish an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. States should not be profiting off weapons that are being used to kill civilians.”
 
The report is released ahead of a field mission to South Sudan by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), scheduled to take place between 28 and 30 October.
 
Amnesty International is calling on the AUPSC to look into the July violence during its visit, and to take steps to ensure the establishment of an independent hybrid court able to investigate and prosecute these and other crimes.
 
Guns turned on civilians
 
The new report, “We did not believe we would survive”: Killings, rape and looting in Juba, highlights the crimes under international law committed by government forces, as well as the UN’s disappointing and inadequate response. Based on field research conducted by Amnesty International in July, August and September 2016, it details deliberate killings, indiscriminate attacks, rapes and massive looting carried out by South Sudanese forces.
 
Six-year-old Joy Kamisa was killed by a rocket shot from a helicopter gunship, which hit her grandmother’s house in Juba’s Gudele neighbourhood.
 
Two-and-a-half-year-old Nyamuch died from wounds sustained when a piece of shrapnel hit her in the head. She and several of her siblings, who lived in a protected site specifically designated for civilians (protection of civilians site) at the UN base in Juba’s Jebel neighbourhood, were hit by an explosive device as they tried to flee to the main UN base. Her siblings survived, but were injured.
 
Biel Gat Kuoth, 26, was sitting in his grandfather’s compound when, according to an eyewitness, a “bullet came out of nowhere” and hit him in his right leg, breaking his shin bone. The wound became infected and he died a few days later.
 
Lili died in her home in the Gudele neighbourhood when it was deliberately flattened by a government tank.
 
“It is shameful that the South Sudan government can still freely acquire weapons when it has repeatedly used them to commit crimes under international law and human rights violations. The international community must impose a comprehensive arms embargo or risk being seen as complicit in these violations,” said Joanne Mariner.
 
Possible human shields
 
The report also describes abuses by armed opposition forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO). It details how opposition fighters entered the protection of civilians sites at the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood several times on 10 and 11 July, at least once in large numbers.
 
It is not clear whether in doing so the fighters intended to shield themselves from attack or impede military operations – which would constitute the war crime of using human shields – but regardless of their intention, such maneuvers endangered thousands of civilians sheltering in the sites.
 
Another problem was the location of the SPLA-IO base in the Jebel neighbourhood adjacent to the protection of civilians site, which placed civilians in proximity to clashes between government and opposition troops.
 
Targeted killings and rape
 
Fighting began at the presidential palace on 8 July with an exchange of gunfire between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and fighters allied to First Vice-President Riek Machar. Soon government troops were targeting people based on ethnicity and perceived political loyalties.
 
John Gatluak Manguet Nhial, a 32-year-old journalist with Nuer facial scarring, was shot dead by a government soldier during a raid on the Terrain Hotel on 11 July, as other soldiers tauntingly shouted “Nuer, Nuer.”
 
A 24-year-old Dinka woman whose Nuer husband has been missing since July told Amnesty International that government troops stormed the family compound and arrested her husband and brother-in-law. When she told the soldiers that the two men worked for the government, she said that the soldiers responded that even if they worked for the government, they were still Nuer and “Nuer are rebels.”
 
“My life is shattered,” she told Amnesty International. “Life without him is hopeless.”
Soldiers also sought out Nuer women for rape, not only to harm them, but also to humiliate and punish their husbands. A 35-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by three soldiers said the men emphasised: “Your husband is a Nuer man, our enemy.” She said her clothes were full of blood when they finally released her.
 
Government soldiers also raped other non-Dinka women and girls. A member of the Kuku ethnic group described how his two sisters, ages 14 and 17, were raped by soldiers on 11 July at their family compound in Juba’s Munuki neighbourhood. He said that the soldiers, who also looted the compound, accused the family of supporting Machar.
 
UN failures
 
Amnesty International’s research reveals serious failings in the conduct of UN peacekeeping forces. Criticising the UN’s response to the violence as “disappointing and inadequate,” the new report details how UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians from being killed or raped.
 
A 24-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by five government soldiers just in front of the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood told Amnesty International that UN peacekeepers and private security guards could see the attack but did not come to her aid. UN troops also failed to intervene during the attack on the Terrain Hotel, during which several women were gang-raped, even though it was only a kilometre away from their base.
 
During the fighting, UN peacekeepers also abandoned their positions when they came under fire at one of the protection of civilians sites, POC 1, leaving civilians undefended.
 
UN forces put civilians at risk by their actions as well as their inaction. In one incident, UN police shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of frightened Nuer civilians at the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood.
 
“UN forces faltered in their mission to protect civilians, standing by as people were killed and raped,” said Joanne Mariner.
 
The new report also criticises the use of military courts to try soldiers suspected of abuses. It concludes that the chronic lack of real justice in South Sudan for crimes such as deliberate killings of civilians underscores the need for the speedy establishment of an independent hybrid court that will have jurisdiction over such crimes.

“These killings and systematic gang rapes must not go unpunished. The government of South Sudan must ensure that they are promptly, impartially and independently investigated and all those suspected of responsibility brought to justice in fair civilian trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

South Sudan: Continued fighting must not derail hybrid court to try war crimes

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
FIDH
JOINT PRESS RELEASE
 
Continued fighting in South Sudan must not derail justice for crimes committed during the deadly conflict that began in December 2013, said Amnesty International and FIDH in a joint briefing published today.
 
The organizations are calling on the African Union (AU) Commission and the South Sudan government to urgently establish the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS).
 
“Thousands have been killed, women raped, entire villages destroyed, and humanitarian personnel attacked. But as world attention has focused on ending the fighting, accountability for violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity has been put on the back burner,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.
 
“Justice must not be delayed any further. Fresh violations should give added impetus to efforts to form the Hybrid Court.”
 
The peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015 provides for the formation of the court to investigate and prosecute those bearing criminal responsibility for the atrocities, but little progress has been made towards setting it up.
The Hybrid Court – which will combine elements of both domestic and international law and be composed of personnel from South Sudan and abroad – currently represents the most viable option for ensuring accountability for crimes committed during the conflict, as well as for deterring further abuses.
 
In the briefing, the organizations make 17 recommendations to ensure the court effectively achieves accountability in accordance with international fair trial standards. The priorities include:

  • Establishing an investigative branch to ensure evidence is collected and preserved in an appropriate manner;
  • Establishing an independent victims and witness protection unit;
  • Ensuring that victims’ rights to participate in the proceedings are guaranteed, the inclusion of South Sudanese judges and staff on the court and exclusion of the death penalty as a possible sentence. 

They also recommend that if security concerns prevent the court from being based in South Sudan, it should at least be located within the region.

“Atrocities endured by civilians in South Sudan, which the African Union has documented, must not go unpunished. The establishment of the Hybrid Court is necessary, not only to address human rights violations and abuses and crimes under international law, but also as a pillar to achieving sustainable peace,” said Arnold Tsunga, FIDH Vice President.
 
“The AU should build on its experience of the recent trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in Senegal to set up the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.”
 
The report’s key recommendations on the Hybrid Court’s makeup reflect best practices of other hybrid and ad hoc tribunals, as well as international legal standards.
 

 
Background
 
South Sudan became an independent country on 9 July 2011 after decades of war, lengthy negotiations and a referendum to secede from Sudan. Two and a half years later, in December 2013 armed conflict broke out between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied to his deputy Riek Machar.
 
In August 2015, the two parties agreed a peace deal and later formed a transitional unity government with President Kiir at the helm and Machar as one of his two deputies.
 
Renewed fighting broke out in July 2016 with heavy clashes in the capital Juba and other parts of the country. Machar has since been replaced as first Vice President and fled the country.
 
About 2.6 million South Sudanese have fled their homes since the outbreak of fighting in 2013, with some 1.6 million internally displaced and another one million living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
 
South Sudan is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ICC does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed during the ongoing conflict.
 
Since the outbreak of the conflict, Amnesty International and FIDH, along with South Sudanese civil society, have been calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms in South Sudan.

 

For more information or to arrange an interview, please call:
 
For Amnesty International:
Seif Magango, +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or email seif.magango@amnesty.org
 
For FIDH (in Paris):
Arthur Manet, +33 6 72 28 42 94 or Audrey Couprie +33 6 48 05 91 57
presse@fidh.org

South Sudan: Devastating impact of war on mental health must be addressed

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PRESS RELEASE

06.07.2016

South Sudan: Devastating impact of war on mental health must be addressed

People forced to eat human flesh and to disembowel dead bodies during South Sudan’s civil war that began in 2013 are among thousands suffering from trauma and psychological distress amid a chronic shortage of mental healthcare services in the country, Amnesty International said today as the country marks its fifth anniversary.

In a new report, “Our hearts have gone dark”: The mental health impact of South Sudan’s conflict, the organisation documents the psychological impact of mass killings, rape, torture, abductions and even a case of forced cannibalism, on the survivors and witnesses of these crimes.

“While the death and physical destruction caused by the conflict and preceding decades of war are immediately apparent, the psychological scars are less visible and neglected,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“Whilst an end to atrocities including torture, rape and murder would be an obvious urgent first step to preventing additional mental health consequences, action also must be taken to heal the damage already done, by providing victims with treatment and other appropriate reparations.”

Based on interviews with 161 victims of and witnesses to human rights violations, as well as mental health professionals, government and UN officials, and representatives of non-governmental organisations, the report reveals a dire lack of mental health services across the country for people in need of support and care.

This almost total absence of services is resulting in mental health conditions such as Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) going untreated. There are currently only two practicing psychiatrists in the entire country of 11 million people and mental health patients are routinely housed in prisons instead of receiving the care and treatment they desperately need.

Many of the people interviewed described a range of symptoms consistent with PTSD and Depression, including nightmares, irritability and the inability to concentrate.

Malith, a survivor of one of the war’s worst incidents in December 2013 when government security agents shot dead about 300 men in Gudele, a neighbourhood of the capital city Juba, told Amnesty International: “Sometimes I dream that I died with those who were killed. I wake up sweating and trembling … I think about how I survived. Why did these others die? It makes me feel bad.”

Another survivor of the Gudele massacre, Phillip, described how he hid under a pile of bodies during the massacre. When he was discovered by soldiers, they forced him to drink the blood and eat the flesh of the dead or be killed.

He said: “At night when I sleep, those who were killed come back in my nightmares.” He added, “I can’t eat, I don’t want anything I am offered. I don’t think the way I am feeling will ever change.”

The government has consistently detained its perceived opponents since the conflict began. Detainees have spoken of killings, beatings, insufficient food and water among other horrors, leading to prolonged psychological distress.

Lual told Amnesty International he was forced by National Security Service (NSS) officers to disembowel the bodies of his murdered fellow detainees at a facility in Juba, so that they would not float when dumped in the river.

He told Amnesty International: “I feel hopeless … I feel depressed, I am never happy … I think about committing suicide … All of this makes me feel bad, and I hate myself.”

In Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, which has the largest Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in the country, women venturing out of the site for food, fuel or medicine have experienced sexual violence leading to significant psychological distress.

Nyawal said she and her friend were raped twice in one day by two sets of government soldiers in Bentiu when venturing off-site in 2015.

She said: “I am very angry about what happened … It has changed my life. I am nothing. I have nothing good … I am ashamed.”

The vast majority of those interviewed said they had not received any psychological support or mental care.

“The government, supported by the international community, must honour its international legal commitments to respect, protect and fulfil the right to health, including mental health. It must also prevent and impartially investigate and prosecute acts such as torture that continue to cause psychological harm to many,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

“Doing more to address mental health needs is not only essential for individuals’ wellbeing, it is also critical for South Sudanese to effectively rebuild their communities and country.”

Names have been changed to protect interviewees’ identities.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Seif Magango in Nairobi on +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or email seif.magango@amnesty.org

 

Background

South Sudan became an independent country on 9 July 2011 after decades of war, lengthy negotiations and a resounding “Yes” vote in a referendum to secede from Sudan.

It plunged into a brutal civil war two years later after President Salva Kiir accused his influential Vice-President Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow him in a coup.

Government and opposition forces have deliberately attacked and killed civilians, abducted and raped women, committed acts of torture, destroyed and looted civilian property and attacked humanitarian personnel and assets.

Thousands of people have been killed, including women and children, entire towns and villages destroyed and approximately 1.7 million people internally displaced.

After two years of on-and-off peace talks, the two leaders agreed to a permanent ceasefire and later formed a unity government with President Kiir at the helm and Machar as his first deputy. Although the agreement ended the conflict on paper, the country continues to be wracked with violence.

The report is primarily based on research conducted by Amnesty International in April and May 2015, and in May 2016 in the cities of Juba, Malakal and Bentiu, which have all been affected by the conflict.

In May 2016, in Juba Central Prison alone, there were 82 inmates categorised as mentally ill, including 16 women. More than half of these inmates had not committed any crime.

The African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo noted in its final report that trauma appeared to be a key consequence of the conflict.

A survey of 1,525 South Sudanese people in conflict-affected areas carried out by the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) between October 2014 and April 2015 found that 41% of respondents exhibited “symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD”.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are only the equivalent of one and a half physicians and two nurses/midwives for every 100,000 citizens, all of whom are disproportionately based in urban areas.

The health sector is allocated only 3% of the 2015-16 national budget, far short of the 15% target pledged by African governments under the Abuja declaration in 2001.

Mental health is defined as the state of emotional and psychological wellbeing in which individuals can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and be active members of the community.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in situations of armed conflict and other emergencies, the proportion of the population suffering from mild or moderate mental disorders rises from about 10% to 15-20%.

In recognition of the importance of mental wellbeing to development, in September 2015, the UN included mental health as an element of the new global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on health.

 

South Sudan: Dozens of detainees at risk of death in shipping containers

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

27 May 2016 – 00:01 EAT
(GMT+3)
 
South Sudan: Dozens of detainees at risk of death in shipping containers
 
Dozens of detainees held in dire conditions in poorly ventilated metal shipping containers, fed only once or twice a week and given insufficient drinking water are at risk of death, warned Amnesty International today.  
 
According to information obtained by the organisation, these conditions have apparently resulted in the deaths of multiple detainees at the Gorom detention site, located about 20km south of the capital Juba. Soldiers also periodically take them out of the containers and beat them.
 
“Detainees are suffering in appalling conditions and their overall treatment is nothing short of torture,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“This egregious disregard for human life and dignity must stop and for that to happen, the detention site should be immediately shut down until conditions are brought into compliance with human rights standards.”
 
A satellite image of what Amnesty International believes to be the detention site at Gorom shows four metal shipping containers arranged in an L shape, inside two perimeter fences. According to information received by Amnesty International, the four containers are used to house detainees and were brought to the site in early November 2015.
 
The detainees, most of whom are civilians and have not been charged with any offence, are accused of links to the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), which is now part of the government of national unity. They do not have access to family members, lawyers, or courts.
“All detainees should be released or charged and brought before independent courts. Civilian detainees should only be held in civilian detention facilities and tried by civilian courts,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
 
Amnesty International has written to Major-General Marial Nour, Director of Military Intelligence, requesting additional information about the Gorom detention site, including the conditions of detention, the names of individuals who are held there and those who have died.
Amnesty International has also written to President Salva Kiir informing him of the situation at Gorom, and calling on him, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to intervene and end the human rights violations at the site.
“President Kiir should order an independent investigation into this site and into military intelligence detention practices generally, with a view to reforming the practices and ensuring that those responsible for torture, death or enforced disappearances are held accountable,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
“Pending such investigations, President Kiir should immediately suspend those credibly suspected of responsibility.”
These revelations come barely two months after Amnesty International released a briefing detailing the deliberate suffocation of more than 60 men and boys in shipping containers in Leer, Unity State in October 2015 and calling for an end to unlawful killings by the armed forces.

Uganda: President Al-Bashir must be arrested and surrendered to the ICC

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE 
 
20 April 2016 
 
Omar Ahmed Al-Bashir President of Sudan / © APGraphicsBank

Omar Ahmed Al-Bashir President of Sudan / © APGraphicsBank

Uganda must immediately arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), said Amnesty International today. Al-Bashir, who is on the court’s wanted list, arrived in Kampala this morning to attend the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni.

“Uganda must face up to its international obligations and arrest Omar Al-Bashir who is wanted on charges of genocide,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Uganda has an absolute obligation to surrender him to the ICC. Failure to do so would be a breach of its duty and would be a cruel betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced during the Darfur conflict.”

The situation in Darfur, Sudan, was referred to the ICC in 2005 by the UN Security Council. Arrest warrants against President Al-Bashir have been outstanding since 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur from 2003 to 2008.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of South Africa called the behavior of South African authorities “disgraceful” for their failure to arrest President Al-Bashir according to their obligations under South African legislation implementing the Rome Statute, when he travelled to Johannesburg to attend the African Union Summit in June 2015.

In March 2010, the Ugandan parliament passed the International Criminal Court Bill which fully incorporated the law of the ICC into Ugandan law. The bill also provides for the arrest and surrender of suspects to the ICC. Speaking at the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC in November 2015, Uganda’s representative unequivocally stated the country’s “support to the International Criminal Court in the fight against impunity” and that “this commitment remains unwavering” However, Uganda has also at times been critical of the ICC.

“President Al-Bashir cannot be allowed to evade justice any longer,” said Wanyeki.

“The government of President Museveni must act now to arrest him and ensure that the next flight he takes flies directly to The Hague where justice awaits him.”

 Background

In July 2009, it was reported that Al-Bashir was invited to Uganda to attend the Smart Partnership Dialogue conference. However, he sent a deputy in his place.

The ICC has also issued several arrest warrants related to crimes committed in northern Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since 2002, including against LRA leader Joseph Kony. The first trial of a former LRA Commander, Dominic Ongwen, is expected to start this year.

Sudan: Government must investigate brutal killing of 18-year-old university student by intelligence agents

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
PRESS RELEASE 
 
20 April 2016 


Sudan
: Government must investigate brutal killing of 18-year-old university student by intelligence agents 

The brutal killing of an 18-year-old Sudanese university student by intelligence agents yesterday must be urgently and impartially investigated, Amnesty International said today, as repression of students in the country intensifies.

Abubakar Hassan Mohamed Taha, a first year engineering student at the University of Kordofan in Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan State, died of a gunshot wound to the head. Another 27 students were injured, five of them seriously.

“This violent attack is yet another shocking episode in a series of human rights violations against university students across Sudan and underlines the government’s determination to put out the last vestiges of dissent,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. 

“The reprehensible violence by state agents against the students must be thoroughly and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

The students had been marching peacefully towards the office of students’ union to submit their list of pro-opposition candidates for union elections due to be held that day. 

Shortly after the march had begun, National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) agents intercepted them in an attempt to prevent them from taking part in the elections.

One student told Amnesty International that he saw 15 pick-up trucks arriving at the university full of NISS agents armed with AK47 rifles and pistols, who then started shooting at the crowd.

Last month, security officers beat up and fired tear gas at students at the same university, injuring 15, during a peaceful demonstration against poor service delivery. They arrested seven others. 

Background 

The University of Kordofan Council of Deans issued a statement on 19 April expressing regret for the violent incident and confirming Abubakar’s death. However, it made no mention of the involvement of NISS agents and instead, described the incident as clashes between two rival students groups around the union elections.

Amnesty International has documented violent crackdowns against students by the police and security forces since 2012. Over this period scores of student protestors have been killed, injured or detained, sometimes incommunicado.  

Since January this year, security forces have in several incidents used excessive force against students at El-Geneina University in West Darfur State, University of Bakhit El Rhida in White Nile State, University of Kordofan,Al-Zaiem Al-Azhari in Khartoum North and the University of Khartoum. One student was killed at El-Geneina University.

South Sudan: Government must end arbitrary detentions by the intelligence agency

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE
 
Embargoed: 15 April 201600:01 EAT (GMT+3)
 
South Sudan: Government must end arbitrary detentions by the intelligence agency
 
The South Sudanese government must end arbitrary detentions by the intelligence agency under which dozens of men are being held in squalid conditions without charge or trial sometimes for months on end, said Amnesty International days before opposition leader Riek Machar is due to return to the capital Juba as part of a peace deal requiring the parties to the conflict to form a national unity government.
 
Amnesty International has compiled a list of 35 men arbitrarily detained by the National Security Service (NSS) at its headquarters in the Jebel neighbourhood of Juba. Some of the detainees have been held for close to two years, without access to lawyers and with very limited access to their families and the outside world.
 
The list, published as part of a briefing Denied protection of the law: National Security Service detention in Juba, South Sudan,includes a former state governor, a 65-year-old university professor, a Ugandan aid worker and a journalist employed by UN-run Radio Miraya.
 
“These detainees lack access to adequate food, medical care and sanitary facilities. NSS have also beaten detainees, particularly in the days following their initial arrest,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
 
“Regardless of whether the unity government comes to pass, the authorities must ensure an end to these dark days of prolonged arbitrary detentions that violate both the South Sudanese Transitional Constitution and international law.”
 
Amnesty International believes there are other detainees in the NSS headquarters and that these 35 men represent only a small fraction of those currently under arbitrary detention due to their perceived political leanings.
“These detainees and others held without charge must immediately be released, or charged with a recognizable offence before a competent civilian court,” said Sarah Jackson.
“The government should also initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into NSS detention practices and limit the agency’s activities to intelligence gathering and analysis.”
 
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Seif Magango on +254 20 4283020, +254 788 343897 or by email Seif.Magango@amnesty.org
 
Note to the editor:
 
Besides providing for a government of national unity, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Crisis in South Sudan (ARCSS), signed by the warring parties in August 2015, requires the parties to “ensure the immediate and unconditional release of … all those detained in connection with the conflict.”
 
But even with indications that the unity government could be formed as soon as next week following Riek Machar’s return, Amnesty International continues to receive reports of further arbitrary arrests of dozens of people by the NSS in Juba.

South Sudan: Government forces deliberately suffocated dozens and dumped bodies in open pits

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

South Sudan: Government forces deliberately suffocated dozens and dumped bodies in open pits

11 March 2016, 00:00 UTC

South Sudanese government forces deliberately suffocated more than 60 men and boys who were detained in a shipping container before dumping their bodies in an open field in Leer town, Unity State, according to new evidence gathered by Amnesty International.

The organization’s researchers recently visited the grounds of the Comboni Catholic Church where the October 2015 killings took place. They also visited the site, about one kilometer from Leer town, where the bodies were dumped. They found the remains of many broken skeletons still strewn across the ground.The findings are contained in a new briefing South Sudan: ‘Their Voices Stopped’: Mass Killing in a Shipping Container in Leer.

“The arbitrary arrest, torture, and mass killing of these detainees is just one illustration of the South Sudanese government’s absolute disregard for the laws of war. Unlawful confinement, torture, willfully causing great suffering, and willfully killing civilians are all war crimes,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

The researchers interviewed more than 42 witnesses, including 23 people who said they saw the men and boys being forced into a shipping container and later saw their dead bodies either being removed or at a mass burial site.

The arbitrary arrest, torture, and mass killing of these detainees is just one illustration of the South Sudanese government’s absolute disregard for the laws of war. Unlawful confinement, torture, willfully causing great suffering, and willfully killing civilians are all war crimes.

Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International

According to witnesses, between 20 and 23 October 2015, government soldiers arbitrarily arrested dozens of men and boys in Luale village and Leer town. They then forced them, with their hands tied behind their backs, into one or more shipping containers located at the Comboni Catholic Church.

Witnesses described hearing the detainees crying and screaming in distress and banging on the walls of the shipping container, which they said had no windows or other form of ventilation. They said that civilian and military officials had direct knowledge that the detainees were in distress and dying but did nothing to help them. For example, one witness said that she saw the then area commander order soldiers to open the container and remove the bodies of four dead men and then close the container again on the remaining detainees who were still alive inside.  

By the following morning, all but one of the remaining detainees had died. One witness told Amnesty International researchers:

“We could see the people inside and they were not alive….what we saw was tragic…the container was full of people. They had fallen over one another and on to the floor. There were so many people.”

Following their death, government soldiers loaded dozens of bodies into a truck and dumped them in two open pits in Kulier, Juong payam, approximately 1km northeast of Leer town. Family members who visited the area in the following days said the bodies, left in the open, had been eaten by animals and had started to decompose.

Despite evidence of war crimes no steps have been taken to hold perpetrators to account or to provide reparations, including compensation to relatives of the deceased for the loss of their loved ones.

“Dozens of people suffered a slow and agonizing death at the hands of government forces that should have been protecting them. These unlawful killings must be investigated and all those responsible brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty,” said Lama Fakih

“In order for effective prosecutions to take place, the African Union Commission should immediately take steps to set up the hybrid criminal court provided for in the August 2015 peace agreement, and ensure that it immediately opens investigations into crimes under international law, including into this atrocity.”

Background

In August 2015, after more than 20 months of intermittent negotiations, South Sudan’s warring parties finally agreed to the terms of a peace agreement. The agreement provided a framework for parties to end hostilities and addressed a wide range of issues including: power sharing, security arrangements, humanitarian assistance, economic arrangements, justice and reconciliation and for a process to develop a permanent constitution.

Despite the peace agreement and commitments by parties to the conflict to a permanent ceasefire, fighting continued in Unity state through mid-December 2015. The power-sharing government has not yet been formed.

The August 2015 peace agreement provides for the establishment of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) by the African Union Commission, with the mandate to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict. This court has not yet been established.

The killing of approximately 60 men and boys in a shipping container in Leer was first revealed by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body responsible for reporting on the implementation of the permanent ceasefire. The CTSAMM report recommended “that some sort of commission of enquiry is established to fully investigate the incident.”

At the time killings took place, the Comboni Catholic Church compound had been taken over by government forces.

Relatives of the dead told Amnesty International that the victims were cattle keepers, traders and students, not fighters.