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Amnesty Accuses South Sudan of Unlawful Detentions

  • John Tanza

Global rights group Amnesty International has accused South Sudan of violating human rights by holding dozens of people without trial since a deadly crackdown last year on protests in Bahr el Ghazal state, and called for a full investigation.

"There are currently over 10 MPs and civil servants being detained in Wau prison... over 20 police officers and four prison guards... in police custody, as well as members of the fire brigade who were arrested on 12th February," Khairunissa Dhala, an Amnesty International program officer for Sudan and South Sudan, said in a phone interview.

"Amnesty is calling on the government of [South] Sudan to ensure that these alleged violations are adequately investigated and the perpetrators held to account," she said.

Dhala's comments came a day after Amnesty International issued a report about "human rights violations committed by the authorities, including the
security forces, in Western Bahr El Ghazal State between December 2012 and January 2013."

The report says that 24 people were killed and more than 60 injured in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, in December 2012, "during protest actions and reprisal attacks following a decision by the state government to relocate Wau County headquarters from Wau to Bagari, 19km away.

"Eleven deaths were at the hands of state security officers, who opened fire on protestors, while 13 deaths were the result of inter-ethic clashes that broke out after the killing of the protestors," it says.

Dhala told VOA News that most of the lawmakers and civil servants who are still in detention were detained because they were opposed to the relocation of the county headquarters.

Local officials have said they were arrested for fomenting violence in Wau after the announcement of the decision to relocate the county headquarters.

A spokesman for the government in Juba said Amnesty's accusations were "devoid of the real facts on the ground."

An investigation by the national and local governments was already under way, and "people have reconciled," said spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

Amnesty called in its report for "a thorough investigation into the largely unreported events" in Wau, and urged the international community to back Juba's efforts to conduct "impartial investigations into the unlawful killings" and arrests, Dhala said.

The detainees' cases are due to go to trial this week, according to Amnesty.