February 19, 2017 (SSNA) — There is reliable information from credible sources that a team of South Sudanese security members has been sent to Kampala, Uganda, by the government of South Sudan to kidnap and deport to South Sudan human rights lawyer Biel Boutros Biel. He is the executive director of South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy(SSHURSA); a leading South Sudanese human rights group that monitors and document human rights violations in South Sudan since 2008. Mr. Biel is currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attending a Transitional Justice conference on South Sudan, organised by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan(UNCHRSS).
SSHURSA, in strongest terms possible condemns such a plot to kidnap and deport Mr. Biel. SSHURSA calls on the region and international human rights bodies to intervene in preventing possible kidnapping and deportation of Mr. Biel, other human rights defenders and members of civil society who are being pursued in East Africa by the security agents of the government of South Sudan. Mr. Biel is also a registered refugee in Uganda and SSHURSA urges the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) and all other United Nations agencies especially the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR) and with other human rights partners as well as the government of the Republic of Uganda to quickly intervene to prevent his possible kidnapping and deportation.
Ongoing campaigns which South Sudan government opposes:
SSHURSA has been vocal on the following:
- Since after July 2016 violence in Juba, continues to advocate for the deployment of a third deterrent force in South Sudan to be under the United Nations Mission in South Sudan(UNMISS). A force that is believed to offer protection to civilians and ensure establishment of the accountability institutions in South Sudan.
- It has been advocating for the imposition of arms embargo on warring parties and targeted sanctions on individual persons who bear organisational and command responsibility in the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.
- It has been advocating for an immediate cessation of hostilities and resuscitation of the 2015 Peace Agreement which collapsed in July 2016. SSHURSA believes that Peace will come to South Sudan through an inclusive roundtable political dialogue to chart a way forward for genuinely sustenable peace in South Sudan.
- It has been advocating for the establishment of credible criminal justice and accountability institutions which are aimed at ending impunity and ushering sustainable peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.
SSHURSA Recent press releases:
Recently, SSHURSA released a number of press statements which were critical of the government of South Sudan security agents, colluding with Kenyan security to abduct human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak and member of armed opposition Aggrey Idri who were disappeared recently in Kenya.
The press statements were also critical of South Sudan’s government opposition to the establishment of the institutions of accountability such as Hybrid Court for South Sudan, Commission of Truth and Reconciliation as well as Compensation and Reparation Authority, all of which have been provided for in Chapter V of the 2015 Peace Agreement. The statements were also critical of recent summary execution order of soldiers by President Salva Kiir.
SSHURSA believes that the above press statements and its previous records, added up to provoke the government of South Sudan to make up a plot to kidnap and deport to Juba Mr. Biel.
In December 2013, when the civil war broke out in South Sudan, SSHURSA was one of the first national human rights organisations which quickly condemned the violence and immediately called on the African Union and United Nations to launch investigations for the crimes and human rights abuses committed in Juba and other towns of South Sudan at the start of the civil war. The call for investigations by SSHURSA angered Juba authorities and that led to the shutdown of SSHURSA offices in South Sudan. Biel and his colleagues fled to exile in East and South Africa respectively.
On 21 January 2014 night, just a month after the outbreak of civil war, after failing to locate him in South Sudan, a number of armed men in military vehicles, believed to be military and security personnel, attacked and ransacked Biel’s home in Juba. All family property including a vehicle belonging to SSHURSA and sensitive human rights documents were looted at his premises. No one was hurt as all his family members had already been evacuated from home. At the end of 2015, Biel and some of his colleagues returned to South Sudan to resume their human rights work. There was then anticipation for the implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement, which through institutional reforms, the Agreement could provide free environment for human rights defenders to carry out their work. However, in July 2016, when the ongoing war broke out again in Juba, Biel then fled to exile in Uganda. He there received a number of threats to his life but he and his colleagues from afar continue to work for SSHURSA’s mandate of monitoring and documenting human rights violations in South Sudan.
It is not only the above security instances that Biel as head of SSHURSA has gone through. On 2 September 2011, a rumour was concocted and went round in Juba that he was killed. Biel immediately left for Ireland and Geneva to attend Frontlines Human Rights Defenders 6th Dublin Platform and the 18th Session of UN Human Rights Council. On 21 September 2011, one security agent went to SSHURSA office looking for him but he was still away. The security agent intimidated SSHURSA staff, saying that SSHURSA works against the government of South Sudan by releasing statements critical to the work of President Kiir’s leadership. Such allegations were fabrications of the security machinery and were intended to distort the mandate of SSHURSA.
Due to continued threats, SSHURSA thus closed down its offices for a week and with intervention of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission and other international partners, it resumed its operations and Biel returned to Juba. On 4 September 2012 night, after chasing away the deployed unarmed security guard, SSHURSA offices were broken into and only Biel’s desk was broken and searched by two men believed to be either members of national security or military intelligence who must have monitored for long SSHURSA office. By that time, SSHURSA was doing investigations, documentation and advocacy against the arbitrary detentions of some military generals such as late General Gabriel Tanginye, General Gatwech Joak, General Mabor Dhol, General Telephone Kuku and former political opposition leader Peter Abdelrahaman Sule, all of whom were summarily detained for years at military barracks manned by military intelligence with directives from President Salva Kiir. All these detainees, none of them was charged or taken to court. SSHURSA was then specifically calling on South Sudanese authorities to halt detention of people in unlawful places and urgently charge and produce such detained persons for trials before a court of law and of competent jurisdiction.
SSHURSA has been monitoring also violations of the right to freedom of speech, press and expression. In the past, it strongly condemned, followed and documented closely cases such as the assassination attempt of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance Deng Athuai, harassment and arbitrary arrests and detentions of youth members in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes and Warrap States. It also monitored and documented the disappearance of Engineer John Louis who was kidnapped in March 2011 and for whose disappearance the former South Sudan Public Security and Criminal Investigations Director, General Marial Nuor was accused of being responsible and among other charges, he was arrested though later released without holding him to account. It also condemned and documented the disappearance of civil society leader Modessa Wiyual who was kidnapped in December 2012 and believed to have been picked and disappeared by the members of the national security.
It documented and condemned the murder of traffic police officer Banyjioth Mathot whose body on 30 March 2013, was found beneath the home of the then South Sudan Deputy Minister of Interior, General Salva Mathok who was thus accused of being responsible for the murder though he denied. SSHURSA continues to condemn and document the killing and disappearances of journalists such as John Gatluak Manguet who was killed in Juba in July 2016, Julius Peter Moi, a journalist who was shot dead in August 2015 after President Kiir vowed to kill journalists critical of his government’s performance. Clement Lochio, a journalist who got disappeared in Eastern Equatoria in August 2015 among others, all of whom are believed to have been kidnapped and disappeared by South Sudan security agents.
Biel, through SSHURSA, has continued human rights advocacy work to hold accountable those who assassinated Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol(Isaiah Abraham). A political commentator who was killed in Juba at the dawn of 5 December 2012Despite the proclamation of government of South Sudan’s former Minister of Information Barnaba Marial Benjamin, that there have been arrests of the suspects connected to the assassination of Isaiah Abraham, four years since his assassination, no one has been held accountable. . SSHURSA has been calling on South Sudanese authorities to bring the perpetrators of Isaiah Abraham to justice. All the above and more of SSHURSA work on human rights plus Biel’s own writings being critical to government of South Sudan on the human rights violations and abuses of rule of law, have added up to pose threats to his life.
Despite the continued risks to Biel’s life, SSHURSA vows to continue its human rights work because the little work it stands up for, gives hope to the vulnerable and the suffering South Sudanese communities especially those who cannot speak for themselves. SSHURSA will continue its advocacy role on accountability for human rights and rule of law violations in South Sudan and the perpetrators must be held accountable on such abuses.
SSHURSA calls once again on all people of good will to prevent possible kidnapping and deportation of Mr. Biel. It also urges all human rights defenders and South Sudanese civil society members to continue standing up for the oppressed citizens whose rights have always been abused by the security agents of the South Sudanese government.
About SSHURSA: SSHURSA is a nongovernmental and nonpolitical national human rights organisation which was founded on 5June 2007. Its head office is in capital Juba and its coordination offices in other states of South Sudan. Its vision; a democratic, peaceful, human rights and rule of law abiding South Sudan. It areas of focus are in human rights education, monitoring and documentation, constitution dissemination, legal aid, rule of law, transitional justice and peacebuilding among others.
For more information on this press release or about SSHURSA, Contact us through e-mail: [email protected]. Tel: +211955912237 or visit our website at: www.sshursa.org. To personally contact Biel: e-mails: [email protected] or [email protected]
REFERENCES TO SOME OF SSHURSA PREVIOUS AND RECENT WORK WHICH MAKE SOUTH SUDAN GOVERNMENT UNCOMFORTABLE WITH SSHURSA AND BIEL:
- Pressure Mounts on Salva Kiir’s S. Sudan Government over Unresolved Journalists Murders, Whereabouts: http://theinvestigatornews.com/2016/12/pressure-mounts-salvar-kiirs-s-sudan-government-unresolved-journalists-murders-whereabouts/
- SSHURSA statement for full investigations and resignation of ministers: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?iframe&page=imprimable&id_article=44791
- South Sudan says establishing Hybrid Court undermines peace: http://sudantribune.com/spip.php?iframe&page=imprimable&id_article=61533
- SSHURSA condemns abduction of Samuel Dong, calls for Kenyan government to respect human rights: http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/index.php/2017/01/25/sshursa-condemns-abduction-samuel-dong-calls-kenyan-government-respect-human-rights/
- South Sudan rights body says killing journalist a crime: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article56141
- SSHURSA: Rights Groups Condemns Attempted Assassination on the Alliance’s Leader, Deng Athuai!: https://nyamile.co/2014/08/02/sshursa-rights-groups-comdemns-attempted-assassination-on-the-allainces-leader-deng-athuai/
- Human Rights Society urges Information minister to respect rule of law: http://www.catholicradionetwork.org/?q=node/12279
- Calls for deputy interior minister to resign over detention of Juba journalists: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article46547
- Urgent deployment of third deterrent force & arms embargo on South Sudan: http://www.southsudannation.com/re-urgent-deployment-of-third-deterrent-force-arms-embargo-on-south-sudan/
- Rule of Law versus Rule of Man: Where is South Sudan? http://www.southsudannation.com/rule-of-law-versus-rule-of-man-where-is-south-sudan/
- SSHURSA welcomes arrests of the suspects of the assassination of Isaiah Abraham urges government to continue genuine investigations: https://paanluelwel.com/2013/01/05/sshursa-welcomes-arrests-of-the-suspects-of-the-assassination-of-isaiah-abraham/
- 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: https://paanluelwel.com/2012/05/19/on-arrest-of-journalist-ayak-dhieu-sshursa-press-statement/ , etc.