Violations continue unabated as 4 million South Sudanese are displaced
The Human Right Division of the UN Mission in South Sudan reported 114 cases of the Sudan People's Liberation Army and allied militias arbitrarily killing civilians suspected of supporting the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition around the town of Yei in Central Equatoria State between July 2016 and January 2017. A UN aid worker was released on 5th May 2017, after being detained for nearly a month. Aid workers have been arbitrarily detained and at least 82 have been killed since the civil war broke out in 2013.
In a May 2017 report, Human Rights Watch emphasised the vulnerability of South Sudanese citizens with disabilities and the elderly in the continuing conflict. And sources currently estimate the number of displaced South Sudanese to be close to four million.
The humanitarian toll from the conflict in South Sudan is staggering. With civilian lives in danger and millions displaced, space for citizens to participate in decision-making processes and voice their opinions has greatly diminished.
The silencing of critical voices, whether from civil society or opposition, continues unabated in South Sudan. Serious concerns exist over the fate and whereabouts of Dong Samuel Luak, a prominent human rights activist, lawyer and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition, as well as of Aggrey Idris, both vocal critics of the South Sudanese government. Both disappeared in Kenya earlier this year, and were transferred to a prison facility of the National Security Service headquarters in Juba on 25th January 2017. They were removed from the facility two days later. Their current location remains unknown.
On 15th March 2017, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights on South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka, presented her report to the UN Human Rights Council, condemning the massive increase in gross human rights violations and abuses in the country in the preceding nine months. As Sooka stated:
“The Government has also conducted a brutal campaign of repression to silence civil society. Journalists who write about the daily suffering of South Sudanese citizens find themselves accused of being the enemy of the state. Civil society activists and their families are threatened”.
Freedom of expression remains highly restricted in South Sudan. Due to government pressure on journalists and media outlets to remain silent on issues related to the conflict, South Sudan dropped five places on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 145 out of 180 countries.
On 8th June 2017, the South Sudan Media Authority (SSMA) banned 20 foreign journalists from entering or operating in the country on the basis of “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories” with the potential to incite violence. The SSMA did not release the names of the journalists and the media agencies.