Uganda: International community must avert growing crisis as number of South Sudanese refugees reaches a million

PRESS RELEASE
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

17 August 2017
 
The international community must deliver and improve on existing financial commitments to help Uganda support the refugees it is hosting, following a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announcement that one million South Sudanese refugees are now in the country, Amnesty International said today.
 
Driven by the ongoing violence in South Sudan, refugees have been entering Uganda in their thousands, especially since the spread of the conflict to formerly peaceful areas after July 2016. Amnesty International has documented evidence of unlawful killings, sexual violence, detention, torture, the purposeful destruction of private and public property, the use of food as a weapon of war and other serious human rights violations in South Sudan; all of which have been drivers of forced displacement into neighboring Uganda.
 
“This unhappy one-million milestone must serve as a wake-up call to the international community that much more is needed from them. With no resolution to the conflict in South Sudan in sight, refugees will continue to flee to Uganda and the humanitarian crisis will only escalate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
 
“While the Ugandan government, the UN and NGOs have done a commendable job, they are now struggling to meet even the most basic needs of South Sudan’s refugees, including food, water and shelter, let alone other needs such as psychosocial support for refugees who are deeply traumatized.”
 
At a solidarity summit held in Kampala, in June, hosted by the Ugandan government and the UN, donors including the EU, the UK and Canada pledged to provide Uganda with greater support in responding to refugees’ immediate and longer-term needs. The summit raised US$358.2 million of the US$ 2 billion requested, including US$960 million for humanitarian needs, but much more is needed.
 
“It is time for other countries to bear their share of responsibility and do much more to alleviate the unsustainable pressure being placed on Uganda. Failure to do so undermines Uganda’s progressive refugee policy and could result in an even worse humanitarian crisis than we are currently witnessing,” said Sarah Jackson.
 
“And ultimately, to stem the flow of refugees fleeing the country, international and regional actors must also take measures to stop violations against the civilian population in South Sudan.”

 
Background

  • In addition to the commitments made at the Uganda solidarity summit, states have obligations under international human rights law and refugee law to provide support to each other to host refugees, known as ‘responsibility sharing’. This includes significantly increasing funding to enable access basic services such as food, water, sanitation, shelter, education and healthcare
  • The international community must also consider longer term solutions, including      increasing the number of resettlement places in other countries and establishing other avenues to allow people to leave the region safely such as: community sponsorship, work and student visas.
  • Over 64% of refugees are children under the age of 18. Together with women, they make up 86% of the entire refugee population in Uganda.
  • The full list of Amnesty International recommendations is featured in the report: Uganda: “Help has not reached me here”: Donors must step up support for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda 
  • A podcast by Sarah Jackson on the crisis in South Sudan is available here.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Amnesty International’s press office on +44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0)77 7847 2126 email: press@amnesty.org twitter: @amnestypress
 
Seif Magango
Media Manager – East Africa
T: +254 20 428 30 20
M: +254 788 343897
@SeifMagango

South Sudan: Sexual violence ‘on a massive scale’ leaves thousands in mental distress amid raging conflict

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

24.07.2017
Thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, and some men, who have been raped in ethnically-charged sexual attacks in the ongoing conflict are battling mental distress and stigma with nowhere to turn for help, Amnesty International revealed in a new report out today.

Do not remain silent”: Survivors of Sexual violence in South Sudan call for justice and reparations, reveals aggravated acts of sexual violence against thousands of people across the country since hostilities began in December 2013. The report is the result of a joint research project between Amnesty International and 10 South Sudanese human rights defenders who cannot be named due to fear of reprisals from the government of South Sudan.

Perpetrators come from both sides of the conflict, pitting the government forces of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against opposition forces of Riek Machar, a Nuer, and their respective allied armed groups.

“This is pre-meditated sexual violence on a massive scale. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives.” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“These indefensible acts have left the victims with debilitating and life-changing consequences, including physical injuries and psychological distress. Many survivors have also been shunned by their husbands and in-laws and stigmatized by the wider community.”

Amnesty International’s researchers interviewed 168 victims of sexual violence including 16 men, in cities, towns and villages across four states in South Sudan – Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity – as well as in three refugee settlements in northern Uganda.

In some cases, the attackers killed the women after they had raped them. In one incident, the assailants mutilated a woman’s vagina with a knife after raping her because she had tried to resist. She died from her injuries four days later.

Civilian men have also been attacked. Some have been raped, others castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles. In one particularly gruesome case, four government soldiers inserted grass in a young man’s anal passage, set it on fire and watched him burn to death.

One survivor, Gatluok, who could not escape with others when government soldiers raided his village in Unity State in May 2015 told Amnesty International:
“Because of my blindness, I couldn’t run with the young men and so I was caught. They told me to choose if I wanted to be raped or be killed. I said I didn’t want to be killed and so they decided to rape me.”
“Some of the attacks appear designed to terrorize, degrade and shame the victims, and in some cases, to stop men from rival political groups from procreating,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
 
Unending suffering

One of the women Amnesty International spoke to is now HIV+. Others are suffering from fistula and bowel incontinence. Some men have been rendered impotent.

Many victims said they were experiencing nightmares, loss of memory, lack of concentration, and had thought of revenge or suicide – all common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jokudu, a 19-year-old woman, was brutally raped by five government soldiers near Yei town in December 2016. She is now unable to control her urine and bleeds frequently.

Nyabake, 24, was gang-raped by government soldiers at a checkpoint in Juba in July 2016. She said she can no longer sleep for more than three hours a night because of nightmares. She said she always feels the soldiers are coming back.

Sukeji was gang-raped by three government soldiers in Kajo Keji in August 2016 in front of her two children. She said, “I do not want to remember but sometimes it just comes in my mind and I cry. Sometimes I wonder whether my children have this in their memory. When they grow up, what will they think of their mother?”

Nyagai, who was gang-raped by government soldiers in Juba in July 2016, lost her religious faith after her assault. She said she stopped going to church after she was raped and does not pray anymore. “Satan went through me the day I was raped,”she said.

Jacob, whose wife Aluel, was raped in front of him by fighters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition (SPLM-IO) – in Juba in July 2016, says he has contemplated suicide.

“The South Sudanese government must take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence, starting by sending a clear message of zero tolerance, immediately ordering an independent and effective investigation into the attacks that have taken place and ensuring that those responsible are held to account in fair trials,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

“It must also deter sexual violence, including through removing suspects from the armed forces until allegations against them are independently verified or dismissed. Victims must be provided with justice, medical care and reparations,”

“Opposition forces must prohibit sexual violence in their ranks as well, put in place robust mechanisms to monitor the conduct of their fighters, and cooperate with all investigations and prosecutions of their members under international law.”
 
Politically and ethnically targeted

Many of the victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, which is increasingly conflated with political allegiance to either the government or the opposition.

In most cases Amnesty International documented, Dinka men attacked Nuer women and Nuer men attacked Dinka women. But there are also cases, as in Unity State, where pro-government Nuer men have raped Nuer women they consider pro-opposition. In other cases, government forces have targeted women from non-Nuer communities.

“They [government soldiers] were telling me that I should blame God for creating me a Nuer,” said 36-year-old Nyachah, who was raped by seven government soldiers in the capital Juba. Her attackers were dressed in Presidential Guard uniforms and spoke Dinka.

Nyaluit, who was raped by five government soldiers in December 2013 said: “They raped me because I am a Nuer woman… They were talking about what happened in Bor – that Dinka women and girls were raped and killed by Riek Machar’s ethnic group, the Nuer.”

James, a Dinka, was forced to watch as nine Nuer opposition fighters broke into his home and took turns gang-raping his wife, Acham, before killing her. “Don’t you know that Dinka and Nuer are fighting and that many Nuer were killed by Dinka in Juba?” the attackers told him.
 
* All victims’ names have been changed to protect their privacy and safety
Public document

Sudan: End the miscarriage of justice against Dr Mudawi and his colleague

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
PRESS RELEASE

 
14 June 2017
 
The Sudanese authorities must immediately release prominent human rights defender Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his colleague Hafiz Idris Eldoma, and halt its misguided assault on dissenting voices in the country, said Amnesty International as their trial begins in the capital Khartoum today.
 
Dr. Mudawi and Hafiz are facing six trumped-up charges, including ‚undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state‘, both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment.
 
“Dr. Mudawi has continuously been harassed by the Sudanese government for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
 
“Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr. Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released. Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.”
 
Dr. Mudawi, an engineering professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested by intelligence agents on 7 December 2016. He founded and is the former director of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), and has won several human rights awards.
 
Hafiz Edris Eldoma, an internally displaced person from Darfur, was arrested on 24 November 2016 at Dr Mudawi’s house.
 
Amnesty International is campaigning for Dr Mudawi’s release as part of its Brave campaign.

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.