Amnesty International Urges South Sudan to Address National Security Service Violations and Crimes

AI Index: AFR 65/0011/2019 12 March 2019

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council today, Amnesty International said they shared the concerns of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan over the continued impunity for crimes committed during the conflict and the illegal conduct of the National Security Service (NSS) that, as noted in the Commission’s report, risks turning “South Sudan into a police state built on fear and corruption.”

Amnesty International’s research has found that the National Security Service and Military Intelligence have arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured and ill-treated hundreds of people since the start of the conflict in December 2013, some to the point of death. People have been forcibly disappeared and continue to be harassed, arrested and detained without charge, and kept in holding facilities with no access to their families, medical treatment, or legal representation. Amnesty International urges the Government to amend the 2014 National Security Service Act to make it compliant with international human rights law.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the use of the death penalty in South Sudan. In February 2019 alone, the authorities executed at least seven people. This is as many as were executed in the whole of 2018. Amnesty International calls on the Government to establish an official moratorium on executions, with a view towards abolishing the death penalty.

The Commission’s report makes clear the need for independent investigations and prosecutions into alleged violations of international humanitarian law, including killing of civilians and sexual violence. The Commission’s mandate is unique and crucial in this regard, and Amnesty International called on all States at the Human Rights Council, including South Sudan, to support its full renewal under Item 4 during its current session.

Public Document Amnesty International, Office for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, 3rd Flr Parkfield Place, Kanjata Road, off Waiyaki Way Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya ****************************************

Joint Letter to UN Security Council on UNMISS Mandate

Since the latest conflict in South Sudan began more than five years ago, government and opposition forces and their allied militias have consistently targeted civilians and deliberately obstructed humanitarian agencies from reaching people in need and attacking humanitarian workers. Government and opposition forces have attacked health facilities and schools, burnt villages and looted civilian property, exacerbating a dire humanitarian situation and contributing to the creation of yet another lost generation.

A succession of ceasefires, and two peace agreements, have been signed since the crisis erupted in December 2013, all of which have been violated within a matter of days.

Parties to the conflict continue to commit crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations with near total impunity, wanton brutality and a complete disregard for human life. The government’s failure to hold to account alleged perpetrators of crimes under international law signals to them that their actions will go unpunished, and helps perpetuate the destructive cycles of violence, revenge attacks and conflict in the country.

This situation and the hostile operating environment has made it difficult for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to fulfil the four pillars of its mandate, namely: to protect civilians, help create conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, monitor and report on human rights violations and abuses, and support the implementation of the peace agreement.

However, UNMISS still has a crucial role to play in South Sudan and the upcoming review of its mandate offers an opportunity to reflect on the changes needed to enable it to effectively execute its mandate.

To begin with, the Security Council should make strong demands on the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) to immediately take concrete and verifiable steps to improve this environment, and the Security Council must be ready to maintain and impose further travel bans and seize financial assets of individuals who are suspected of perpetrating crimes under international law or serious other human rights violations, or misusing public resources to finance such crimes or violations.

The full letter with further explanations can be found here.

South Sudan: Government summoned before regional court in step towards justice

7 March 2019, 19:20 UTC

In a positive development, the Government of South Sudan has been summoned to appear before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on 25 March 2019 over the arbitrary arrest and detention of businessman and philanthropist Kerbino Agok Wol.

The South Sudanese government, and particularly its National Security Service (NSS), is allegedly responsible for widespread human rights violations including arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture and ill-treatment in detention, which are committed with rampant impunity. This is the first time ever that the South Sudan government has been taken to the regional court for human rights violations committed by the NSS.

“Amnesty International welcomes this judicial development which offers a ray of hope for the people of South Sudan who have endured seemingly endless human rights violations and abuses with no justice in sight until now,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

On 6 March, the East African Court of Justice sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, upon hearing an application by the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU), summoned South Sudan’s Advocate-General to appear before it on 25 March.
He will be required to explain why Kerbino has still not been presented before a competent and impartial court, 10 months after his arrest on 27 April 2018. He will also have to explain why the authorities froze Kerbino’s assets and closed his bank accounts, and why he was not granted formal access to his family, doctors and lawyers.

South Sudan’s Advocate-General will be required to explain why Kerbino Wol has still not been presented before a competent and impartial court, 10 months after his arrest on 27 April 2018.         

Kerbino Wol was arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge after presenting himself to the NSS in response to the security agency’s summons. He was initially detained at the Blue House detention centre, which is notorious for torture and other ill-treatment.

Following a riot at the Blue House detention centre on 7 October 2018, he was reportedly put under solitary confinement, after which his health seriously deteriorated, Amnesty International has confirmed.

Several days after the riot, the authorities seized Kerbino properties and froze his personal and business bank accounts.

 “This court decision could open up a much-needed alternative pathway for justice for victims of human rights violations in South Sudan because the national justice system has failed dismally,” said Seif Magango.

“The government of South Sudan must see this as a wake-up call and reform its national justice system and take its obligation to investigate and prosecute alleged human rights violations seriously.”


Kerbino Wol is one of hundreds of people illegally arrested and detained without charge by South Sudanese authorities for months, sometimes even years. Yet the release of detainees is a key pillar of the September 2018 peace agreement. While a few detainees have been released, many remain locked up, and arbitrary arrests by the NSS continue with impunity.