JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN
The governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan rejected as "partial" and "preconceived" a report by Amnesty International, which accuses officials in the state of holding dozens of people without trial since protests rocked the state capital last year.
“The report was quite partial, preconceived and their going to the ground was just to complete the scenario. And it was intended to tarnish the image of the state,” Governor Rizik Zacharia Hassan told reporters in Juba Friday, two days after the report was released.
The report "focuses on human rights violations committed by the authorities, including the security forces, in Western Bahr El Ghazal State between December 2012 and January 2013."
According to Amnesty, 24 people "were killed and more than 60 injured in Wau, the capital of South Sudan’s Western Bahr El Ghazal State, in December 2012" when protests broke out over a decision by the state government to relocate Wau county headquarters to Bagari, 19 kilometers away.
Amnesty also accuses the state authorities of arresting "scores of people considered to be opponents of the state government" and holding them without trial.
"These include members of the state legislative assembly, civil servants, civil society activists, journalists and members of 'youth groups'," the report says.
Hassan said the detainees were arrested on suspicion they committed crimes during the unrest in December.
"There were people being killed among the protestors... trucks were burnt, a police post was burnt down. These are criminal cases and these are the people we apprehended based on the [advice of] the attorney general of the state, using police warrants..." Hassan said.
The trials of the detainees are expected to get under way this week. Three judges from Juba arrived in Wau on Tuesday to preside over the hearings, officials have said.
Amnesty International says those facing trial do not have legal representation.