MIL-OSI NGOs: South Sudan: National Security Service must immediately release arbitrarily detained dissident

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Source: Amnesty International –

Authorities in South Sudan must comply with the directive by the country’s Minister of Justice by immediately releasing government critic Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak, who has been held in arbitrary detention for more than 400 days, said Amnesty International.

After being arbitrarily arrested in Kenya on 4 February 2023, Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak was forcibly returned to South Sudan the following day, where he has been held at the Blue House, the National Security Service’s (NSS) headquarters, in Juba. In April 2024, he was charged with defamation against the Director General of the NSS, Akol Koor Kuc. Despite being granted bail that month over the defamation case, the NSS continue to detain him under the pretext of investigating him for committing crimes against the state. On 10 June, Minister of Justice Ruben Madol Arol directed that Morris Mabior be released and quashed the charge of ‘insulting the president and undermining the authority of the head of state.’

Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak was held in incommunicado detention for at least three months following his arrest, where, according to family members, he was subjected to solitary confinement and torture and other ill-treatment.

“Amnesty International welcomes the Justice Minister’s decision to quash the baseless charges against Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak. It is a travesty that he has been unlawfully detained for more than a year and denied routine visits by family members, as well as access to medical attention,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

It is a travesty that he has been unlawfully detained for more than a year and denied routine visits by family members, as well as access to medical attention

Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director, Amnesty EARO

“Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak’s continued arbitrary detention is in violation of both international human rights law and South Sudanese law. This is a blatant abuse of office by the NSS authorities. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Morris Mabior’s detention by the NSS without trial violates international human rights law, which requires an arrested person to be brought promptly before a judge to exercise judicial power and to be tried within a reasonable time or to be released. It also violates his rights as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the 2011 South Sudan Constitution.

Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak’s continued arbitrary detention is in violation of both international human rights law and South Sudanese law.

Sarah Jackson

Amnesty International further calls on the South Sudan authorities to take additional measures to guarantee Morris Mabior’s safety and security once he is released from detention, and to ensure that his rights are not infringed upon.

Background

On 16 April 2024, Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak appeared in public for the first time since his arrest, at a Juba Court where he was charged with defamation against the Director General of the NSS, Akol Koor Kuc. During his second appearance in court on 24 April 2024, the trial judge said Morris Mabior had already been bailed and he was unaware of why he was being escorted and held/detained by the NSS officers.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of arbitrary detention by the National Security Service (NSS) in multiple facilities where detainees are often subjected to torture and other ill-treatment – some held incommunicado without access to a lawyer, or family members. The NSS spy network extends throughout East Africa to reach those who find refuge in neighbouring countries. For instance, in 2017, Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri were forcibly disappeared in Nairobi Kenya, and later killed in South Sudan, the UN Panel of Experts concluded.  

MIL OSI NGO