SSHURSA condemns detention of journalists, urges the deputy minister of Interior to stop intimidating the media and resign

PRESS RELEASE: SSHURSA Condemns Detention of journalists, Urges the Deputy Minister of Interior to stop intimidating the media and resign, calls for fair investigations of Banyjioth’s murder.

For Immediate release: May 10, 2013,

Juba, May 12, 2013 (SSNA) — The South Sudan Human Rights Society For Advocacy (SSHURSA) condemns in strongest terms possible the recent detention of Juba Monitor Newspaper journalists. Michael Koma, the Managing Editor, who was detained by the police in Juba from May 2nd 2013 and released on May 5th 2013 after three days in unlawful detention and Alfred Taban, the Editor-In-Chief of the same Newspaper, on May 6, 2013, was put into interrogations by the same police for eight (8) hours in Juba and this equally amounts to unlawful detention. According to the findings of SSHURSA, the journalists were detained by the police under the orders of the Deputy Minister of Interior Lt. General Salva Mathok Gengdit. Minister Mathok complained of being defamed by the Newspaper and the Bul Community of Unity State. In a letter written and signed by their leaders, Bul Community made a rebuttal against the denials by the Minister on the allegations in Bul Community’s first letter against him on the murder of a young man called Banyjioth Mathoat Tap from Bul Community and whose body was found lying on March 30, 2013, beneath the premises of Minister Mathok. The community members in its letter previously published after the incident accused the Minister of being behind the demise of their son, allegations which recently the Minister strongly denied as false. Hence leading to the Community’s rebuttal to the Minister’s denial and in a letter published by Juba Monitor. The publication angered the Minister Mathok who ordered the police to summon and investigate the Senior Management of the paper as he claims that his name has been tarnished by both the Juba Monitor Newspaper and Bul Community.

In SSHURSA analysis, the behaviour of police under the orders of Minister to instantly detain the journalists is a clear case of intimidation against the press and misuse of power by the persons in the position of authority. This is a direct abuse of the rights to freedom of expression and media under Article 24 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011. This Constitutional provision allows every citizen to express, receive, disseminate or publish information within the limits of the law. Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 and Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter On Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981 equally protect the freedom of press and expression. South Sudan in 2011 authored its own Constitution and is a member of United Nations and African Union, and by such a membership and also by the principle of the universality of human rights, her institutions are therefore, obliged to respect and promote the legal provisions of these bodies which guarantee the rights of an individual.

Article 18 of the South Sudan’s Constitution provides for the right of freedom from torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The detention of the two journalists under unending interrogations in the truest sense of the meaning, amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment and equally, their detention beyond the Constitutionally prescribed time, contravenes Article 19(4) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 and Section 64(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act 2008, Laws of South(Southern) Sudan , both laws provide for a detention limit of the accused person not beyond 24 hours unless the time for the purposes of investigations is extended by the Court of law or by a Public Prosecutions Attorney. Article 9 of the UDHR prohibits unlawful arrest and it states; “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” This has neither been respected by the police. Section 3(3.2.) of the South (Southern) Sudan Police Service Regulations 2010 cautions the police personnel to uphold the laws of South Sudan and specifically, Section 4 of the Regulations provides for the police to respect human rights and it states;

“All police personnel shall respect and protect human dignity while upholding the human rights of all persons in accordance with regional, national and international laws indentifying and protecting human rights, as well as any other laws or legal instruments protecting all persons from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”

Section 4(4.2.) of the Regulations warns the police that “superior orders or exceptional circumstances“among others, cannot be accepted as justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The police personnel by detaining Michael Koma and Alfred Taban for three days and eight hours and keeping them in such situation of uncertainity respectively in the orders of the Deputy Minister of Interior, have attacked the provisions of the Constitution and the laws of South Sudan for which their sole constitutional establishment is meant to respect and protect. As SSHURSA strongly condemns such behaviour of the Minister and the police, it also makes the following recommendations:

To the President of the Republic and the National Assembly:

1. To pave a way for thorough investigations of the murder he was accused of, the Deputy Minister should resign with immediate effect since he is misusing his powers to violate the Constitution by intimidating the media using the police whose command is under his control. The principles of natural justice do not allow him to continue being the Deputy Minister remaining in an institution investigating the crime he has been suspected of.

2. SSHURSA once again calls upon the President of the Republic H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit to suspend the Deputy Minister Salva Mathok Gengdit until the investigations are over and then reinstates him if the allegations levelled against him are proved to be false. Minister Mathok since March 30, 2013, has so far failed to resign after the murder allegations against him despites numerous appeals made to him and the President.

3. SSHURSA once more calls upon the Members of National Legislative Assembly to impeach the Deputy Minister upon the failure of the President to suspend him from his Ministerial position.

To the Directorate of Public Prosections in the National Ministry of Justice and the police:

1. SSHURSA calls again upon the office of the Prosecutor General to courageously and independently go on with the investigations of the case, disallowing the Ministry of Interior to take any part and this shall remove conflict of interest within the Ministry of Interior attempting to investigate itself.

2. Withdraw all defamatory charges against the Juba Monitor Newspaper and Bul Community by the Deputy Minister and the police, for they are mere cover-up to scare the investigations and drive off public attention from the case.

3. SSHURSA calls upon the police to respect and uphold the Constitution and police laws.

To the media houses and journalists:

1. Continue doing your work without fear or favour and within the limits of the law.

2. Sue any institution or person in the position of power for any harrassment, intimidations and violations of your constitutional rights.

To the family of the late and the public:

1. Remain calm but responsibly continue speaking up to help the struggle against impunity until justice is done for the murdered young man.

2. SSHURSA calls upon the public to remain calm as investigations are ongoing.

Why SSHURSA needs Deputy Minister to resign:

1. He is misusing his powers by the virtue of his position to abuse the Constitution.

2. He is biased and defensive on allegations linking the murder to his premises and if he cannot resign while allegations of the murder are linked to his premises, naturally, it is clear, that there shall be no fair and free investigations of the murder as there is clear and direct conflict of interest.

3. The murder is one of the brutal organized crimes, being a clear violation of the right to life protected under Article 11 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 and Article 3 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

What SSHURSA appeals to happen:

1. Thorough investigations must be done immediately to clearly locate the culprits and the suspects be brought to justice and if found guilty, be lawfully punished.

2. If the Deputy Minister is found truly linked to the allegations, he should face justice and punished in accordance with the law.

3. The incident must serve as a case to end impunity and abuses of power, human rights and rule of law by any person in South Sudan if the Deputy Minister is found guilty.

4. If the Deputy Minister is found guilty, the entire Ministry of Interior leadership from the Minister to the Inspector General must be dissolved and SSHURSA calls upon the National Parliament to effect such dissolution of the failed leadership in the Ministry of Interior and inject in new faces.

Stance: “SSHURSA will fight on all these evils and abuses of human rights and of rule of law in South Sudan. It will continue defending the Constitution and its staff shall remain undeterred under the face of any price”

Background of SSHURSA: SSHURSA is an incorporated non political and non profit making national Human Rights organization founded in June 2007 by South Sudanese Lawyers and Law Students at Makerere Law Development Centre (LDC), Kampala-Uganda. In 2009, its operations started in South Sudan with its head office in Juba and co-ordination offices in other states of South Sudan. Its vision is to advocate for a democratic and human rights abiding South Sudan and its mission is to monitor, document and publish human rights status in South Sudan and also train general public on the importance of human rights, fundamental freedoms of an individual, Rule of Law and democracy, all geared towards creating a more responsible, justice and good governance oriented South Sudan. SSHURSA pays special focus on the rights of children, persons with disabilities women and other minority groups.

For this press release or more about SSHURSA, you may contact SSHURSA through its Executive Director Biel Boutros Biel on: Telephone number: +211 915 364 531; E-mail: [email protected], Juba, South Sudan

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