PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Following the July 2016 conflict in Juba and the ascent to power of the Juba faction of the SPLM-IO led by General Taban Deng Gai, a new wave of violence has spread to the most peaceful regions of Central Equatoria which until then existed as the only beacon of stability and peaceful coexistence since the outbreak of South Sudan’s civil war in December 2013. State sponsored kidnappings, abductions, and deportation of refugees is also becoming a regular occurrence targeting activists and members of opposition groups exiled in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, as is abductions and unlawful detentions of journalists and concerned citizens in the country who express alternative views.
SPLM-IO members Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri both went missing in Nairobi Kenya, on the 23rd and 24th of January 2017 respectively. Their whereabouts are not known and a Kenyan court investigating the case has reached an inconclusive verdict. Prior to their disappearance, James Gadet Dak, a refugee in Kenya and spokesperson of the SPLM-IO, was arrested and deported back to South Sudan by the Kenyan government, despite pleas from the UNHCR authorities forewarning otherwise. It is worth noting that the fate of James Gadet Dak remains unknown to date as he has been denied access to legal counsel or any visits.
Kidnappings, abductions and/or deportation of refugees and asylum seekers is a violation of International Refugee Law and the ‘UN Declaration on the protection of all persons from enforced Disappearance’ and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. UPDM, therefore, acknowledges the upright stance adopted by some leading politicians in Kenya who have expressed their disappointments with the prejudiced view taken by the government of Kenya on the conflict in South Sudan; and welcomes the recent statement by the UN Expert Group on Enforced Disappearances, calling on the Kenyan and South Sudan governments to reveal the fate of the two South Sudanese activists abducted in Nairobi, Kenya last month.
At this point in time, the people of South Sudan are deeply frustrated with the continued lack of accountability for the perpetrators of the crimes and their handlers, and doubt the ability of Kenya to act responsibly as part of the UN protection force or as a member of the IGAD peace process given the compromised position it has openly adopted. To deter such violations and protect the dignity of vulnerable South Sudanese citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, the United People’s Democratic Movement (UPDM):
- Petitions the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission an inquiry into the recent kidnappings of South Sudanese in Kenya and document the violations and abuses of human rights and atrocities committed by the government of South Sudan and its external networks.
- Calls for the perpetrators of the kidnappings to be brought before competent courts to ensure that those responsible for abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law, including attacks targeting civilians, are held accountable.
- Urges the African Union to establish without delay the hybrid court for South Sudan provided for in the 2015 peace agreement.
- Appeals to the UN Human Rights Council to use its powers to reverse the deteriorating situation and help end the unlawful detentions and appalling treatment of civilians held unlawfully in-country, including journalists, human rights activists and humanitarian workers.
- Reiterates its support for the UN Human Rights Experts Call for the international community to establish an independent mechanism to assist in investigating violations in South Sudan, to include kidnappings in neighbouring countries in advance of the establishment of the hybrid court, especially given the disappointing ruling yesterday by the Kenyan courts on the disappearance of Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri.
- Urge all neighbouring countries to desist, disengage from, discourage and prevent the kidnappings, abductions and deportation of South Sudanese refugees living in their countries understanding that it is against the refugee law and international human rights instruments they are bound by.
UPDM underscores the importance of documenting critical evidence and the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate the kidnappings, abductions, unlawful detentions, illegal deportations and other crimes against humanity, that are on the rise in South Sudan and across its borders.
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CC: – JMEC, AU, UNSC, TROIKA, IGAD,
- SS Community Leaders,
- Media Houses
- Amnesty International
- Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
- Defend Defenders
- Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
- Human Rights Watch
- Humanity United
- International Commission of Jurists
- International Refugee Rights Initiative
- International Service for Human Rights
- National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda
- Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network
- South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network