South Sudan’s human rights agency condemns the arrest of Radio Rumbek journalist Ayak Dhieu Apar, urges police to uphold the rule of law

The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy
Press Release: For Immediate Release; May 19, 2012

SSHURSA condemns arrest of Radio Rumbek journalist Ayak Dhieu Apar, urges police to uphold country’s Constitution, calls upon Lakes state’s police commissioner to resign with immediate effect and urges Ministry of Justice’s office of the prosecutions to hold perpetrators to account

Juba, May 20, 2012 (SSNA) — The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy condemns in the strongest terms possible the arrest of Radio Rumbek 98 FM journalist Ms. Ayak Dhieu Apar. Ayak was arrested on Tuesday May 15, 2012 at about 9 oclock in the morning by the police in lakes state’s capital Rumbek. She was taken to police station and detained for hosting on Monday May 14, 2012, a live radio talk show with title: “How could public respect police?”, Vaiorus listeners calling in gave their views on the subject matter and also criticised the conduct and competence of the police services towards citizens in the state. This, according to police was considered insulting and led to her detention for two days as she was released charged on Thursday May 17, 2012.

SSHURSA condemns such an arbitrary act on Ayak by the police. It is unconstitutional and against the provision of Article 24 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 that grants freedom of expression and media. Ayak didn’t do anything wrong, she was genuinely executing her duties as a journalist and inviting in, listeners to discuss a matter of public interest since police is an institution for public purposes subject to public scrutiny. Arresting her for hosting such a live discussion is an open attack on the supreme law, the Constitution and the police who did the act must be held to account. Such arbitrariness is unacceptable under democracy and impunity must be a thing of the past in the police forces.

“It is my considered view currently and I am convinced that such an act of arresting Ayak plus many more unconstitutional acts in the hands of our law enforcement agencies can hardly be distinguished from the evils for which South Sudan took up arms for against Khartoum. It is so sad that most of our institutions are doing exactly what caused South Sudan to secede from North Sudan” Said Biel Boutros Biel, the Executive Director of SSHURSA. “Just marching in, to the media house and arrest at will a voice that has been assigned to do what the public interest demands, places our police as if living on another world different from ours, their act is a defilement and practical defiance of the Constitution and best practices under the principles of the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution and under the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Biel added.

SSHURSA is much concerned with such a violation of the Constitution and direct intimidation and harrasment to suppress media freedom. SSHURSA believes that under democratic  governance the right to freedom of speech and expression comes together with the freedom to propose and oppose. So police expecting the public to appreciate its work all the times even when they are not to public expectations is indeed an illusional assumption under democratic principles. Detaining Ayak for two days in police cell was a practical violation of Article 19(4) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 that states; “ A person arrested by the police as part of an investigation, may be held in detention, for a period not exceeding 24 hours and if not released on bond to be produced in court. The court has authority to either remand the accused in prison or to release him or her on bail” This provision has also been echoed under section 64(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 2008 Laws of South(Southern) Sudan but all were violated deliberately by the police.

Though journalist Ayak had been released since May 17, 2012 but according to the reliable information SSHURSA has ascertained, she stands still illegally charged under defamation as alleged by the police who arrested her. SSHURSA condemns as well such fabrications as intimidation and a clog to freedom of expression and the media. It is harrassment to journalists at large and particularly violence against women at worst which is prohibited under Article 16 on the rights of women in the country’s highest law.

SSHURSA issues the following recommendations:

1. Lakes State’s police Commissioner Major General Saed Abdulatif Chawuol Lom must resign from his position pending investigations for his alleged role in instructing or ordering his officers to arbitrarily arrest journalist Ayak Dhieu Apar and detained her illegally beyond constitutionally enshrined 24 hour detention limit.

2. The Rumbek police should withdraw all alleged charges against Ayak and if the police have better reasons to believe that they have a genuine case; then their suit of claim should be directed to and proved against the Radio Rumbek management and not individual journalist Ayak.

3. The Judiciary of South Sudan should intervene immediately and dismiss defamatory charges against journalist Ayak. The Judiciary should come up clearly because silence on this, shall mean condoning a violation of the Constitution, protection of which is the main role of the Judiciary.

4. Ministry of Justice should constitute investigations team and bring those found responsible for arbitrariness to account including the alleged role of the Lakes State’s police commissioner subsequent to his prior and immediate resignation.

5. SSHURSA calls upon Ministry of Interior of the Republic of South Sudan to exercise maximum control over its personnel oftentimes willfully violating the Constitution.

6. SSHURSA calls upon all South Sudanese citizens to own, adhere, uphold and protect the Constitution against any attack or violation by any person or institution regardless of his/her/its status countrywide.

Cc: South Sudan Human Rights Commission, Juba, South Sudan.

Cc: Ministry of Justice, Juba, South Sudan

Cc: Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Committee, South Sudan National Legislative Assembly

For contact, reach SSHURSA through: Tel: +211955300382; E-mail: [email protected]

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