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South Sudan: Flawed Security Bill Headed for Vote

10-03-2014, 04:50 PM
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South Sudan: Flawed Security Bill Headed for Vote

    Gives Sweeping Powers to Abusive Security Forces

    (Nairobi, October 3, 2014) – South Sudan’s lawmakers should overhaul draft legislation that would establish and regulate the powers of the National Security Service (NSS) to ensure that it conforms with international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today. The draft law is pending before parliament and expected to be put to a vote on October 7, 2014.

    “As is, the National Security Service bill would sanction the national security service’s abusive and unlawful detentions and interrogations,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “South Sudan should insist on a higher standard instead of echoing Sudan’s draconian national security law.”

    The bill should be revised to bring it in line with international human rights standards, and South Sudan’s Bill of Rights, Human Rights Watch said.

    The security service has operated without a legal basis since South Sudan’s independence. Human Rights Watch has documented serious security service violations such as arbitrary detentions of people for their perceived political views, and of journalists. Following the outbreak of new conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, the security service increased censorship and detained several journalists, creating an atmosphere of fear for journalists and independent groups.

    Earlier in 2014, the security service ordered the newspaper Almajhar Alsayasy, to cease publication. Authorities have confiscated issues of another weekly newspaper, Juba Monitor, eight times in the past seven months. In June, security officials seized an entire run of the Citizen, another weekly newspaper. In August, the security service suspended the Catholic FM Radio Bahkita for several weeks, locking the office, arresting three staff members, and detaining one for three days over a report about the army’s death toll in a battle.

    The Justice Ministry drafted the bill and introduced it in the National Legislative Assembly in May. The bill gives the National Security Service officers the same powers of arrest and detention as the police, but does not specify where people it detains are to be held. It also does not explicitly guarantee detainees basic due process rights, such as the right to counsel. The bill also grants the security officers wide powers of surveillance and the authority to search and seize property without clear judicial oversight, and shields them from any criminal liability.

    South Sudan’s transitional constitution, which contains due process guarantees, envisages a National Security Service with a mandate that includes “information gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant authorities.” Those provisions are the same as were in Sudan’s Interim National Constitution, passed after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

    Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continues to enjoy broad powers of arrest, detention, search, and seizure that do not comply with international human rights standards. Sudanese and international human rights groups have long called for the reform of Sudan’s law.

    The conflict that began in South Sudan in December 2013 has been characterized by unlawful attacks on civilians – often targeted and killed because of their ethnicity – and civilian property. The violence has killed thousands of people, largely destroyed key towns, and forced an estimated 1.5 million people to flee their homes, often to places where they face severe hunger.

    The United Nations Mission in South Sudan and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have documented abuses that constitute war crimes by both government and opposition forces as well as potential crimes against humanity.

    “South Sudan’s security service has been operating for years without a legal mandate,” Bekele said. “There needs to be a legal basis for security service actions, but it should be an agency that will protect rights, not one that creates the kind of security body South Sudanese fought to free themselves from.”

    For more Human Rights Watch reporting on South Sudan, please visit:
    http://www.hrw.org/africa/south-sudanhttp://www.hrw.org/africa/south-sudan

    For more information, please contact:
    In New York, Jehanne Henry (English, French): +1-917-443-2724; or mailto:[email protected]@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Jehannehenry
    In Amsterdam, Leslie Lefkow (English): +31-621-597-356 (mobile); or mailto:[email protected]@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @LefkowHRW
    In Nairobi, Skye Wheeler (English): +254-705-557-017; or mailto:[email protected]@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @WheelerSkye


    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
    MEDIA ADVISORY
    30 SEPTEMBER 2014
    South Sudan: Parliament must reject new security bill with excessive powers
    Amnesty International spokespeople available for interview
    South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) will be granted sweeping powers to arrest, detain, seize property and conduct searches if a fundamentally flawed bill currently before parliament becomes law, warned Amnesty International today.

    “The bill grants the National Security Service virtually unrestricted powers of arrest, search and seizure and is at odds with South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution and with regional and international human rights law and standards. It should not be passed in its current form,” said Elizabeth Deng, South Sudan researcher with Amnesty International.

    “While the National Security Service urgently needs a legal mandate, any law passed must ensure appropriate limits on its powers and provide individuals adequate opportunity for redress. It grants officers immunity from criminal proceedings, opening the door to impunity.”

    Parliament should also improve public dissemination of the draft bill and all other bills being considered. It should make every effort to ensure easy, prompt, effective and practical access to these bills by citizens across the country.

    Amnesty International reviewed the draft bill presented on Monday to the National Legislative Assembly. It will be debated again on Wednesday.

    Talking points

    • Excessive powers of arrest, detention, search and seizure.

    • Absence of provisions for accountability for members of the NSS.

    • Failure to provide guarantees required under international human rights law.

    Background

    Since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, the National Security Service (NSS) has operated with no legal mandate. The bill to define and delimit NSS powers was drafted by the Ministry of Justice and submitted to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in May 2014. The third reading is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

    NSS officers have engaged in unlawful arrests and detentions. In particular, since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, they have played a particular role in undermining the right to freedom of expression by harassing, intimidating and arbitrarily detaining journalists. (link to http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR65/007/2014/enhttp://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR65/007/2014/en)

    Additional comments on the bill:

    · While the Transitional Constitution provides that the mandate of NSS should focus on “information gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant authorities,” the bill grants the NSS extremely broad functions and powers in relation to arrest, detention, search and seizure. To remain within its constitutional mandate for intelligence-gathering and analysis, all police powers, including arrest, detention, search and seizure should be carried out by a different and appropriate law enforcement agency, in a lawful manner;

    · Bearing in mind that the NSS’s mandate does not constitutionally extend to arrest and detention, the provisions in relation to arrest contradict constitutional requirements that a person must be informed about the reasons of arrest at the moment of arrest and be presented to a judicial authority within 24 hours. The current draft contains only the obligation to inform a person about “charges” within 24 hours;

    · Bearing in mind that the NSS’s mandate does not constitutionally extend to arrest and detention, the provisions in relation to arrest fail to provide due process guarantees required under regional and international human rights law, including: the right to remain silent; the right to effective defense; the right to challenge the lawfulness of arrest; the right to communicate in private with a lawyer. The right to access a lawyer and to communicate with family are subject to vague limitations;

    · Bearing in mind that the NSS’s mandate does not constitutionally extend to arrest and detention, the bill does not specify permissible places of detention;

    · The bill grants the NSS powers to collect, search for and seize information without specifying the necessary criteria or scope for use of these powers and without providing for any restrictions or procedures that must be followed. There are no controls for the use of these powers and safeguards against abuse. Though the bill states that NSS officers “shall exercise all powers of the police under the applicable police service law and criminal procedure laws,” it should make clear that requirements for judicial oversight and obtaining warrants described in these laws also apply to NSS officers;

    · The bill fails to provide for effective oversight. It provides that complaints against the NSS should be made to the NSS itself and that, where complaints are made to any other public institution, these should be forwarded to the NSS. The bill fails to specify procedures for the handling of complaints, the rights of victims, possible remedies or oversight for the handling of complaints;

    · The bill does not sufficiently provide for accountability of members of the NSS; Unlawful behavior by NSS members is mainly subject to a special tribunal. The bill grants members of the NSS immunity from criminal proceedings unless authorized by the Minister or Director General;

    · The death penalty should be removed as a punishment for criminal offences defined in the bill.

    With the above in mind, Amnesty International is calling for members of parliament to vote against the bill and to ensure that the bill is revised so that it is in keeping with the limited constitutional mandate of the NSS and complies with regional and international human rights law.

    To arrange an interview with Elizabeth Deng, please contact: +254 739 354 262



    Skye Wheeler
    Researcher, Sudan and South Sudan
    Africa Division, Human Rights Watch
    KENYA: +254 705557017
    SOUTH SUDAN: +211 927091286 and +211 954855450
    US + 1 646 203 2539
    Skype: skye.wheeler
    mailto:[email protected]@hrw.org
                  

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