Human rights defenders call for “unconditional” release of James Gatdet Dak

James Gatdet Dak. Photo: Reuters

Juba, March 11, 20185 (SSNA) — A coalition of human rights organizations have called on South Sudan’s government to “unconditionally and urgently release” the former rebel spokesman James Gatdet Dak.

The call came 29 days after the judgment was passed on February 12, by South Sudan’s High Court.

“We, the undersigned human rights defenders call on the government of South Sudan to unconditionally and urgently RELEASE James Gatdet Dak,” the group said in a statement obtained by the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA).

In the statement, the rights organizations argue that James Gatdet deserves to live and has children who would like to have a father, adding that there are people in the government who want to kill him and at the same time enjoy the same right James deserves to have.

“The life of James Gatdet Dak is precious and he deserves to live like any human being. He has children and family who deserve to have father, a right now being enjoyed by families of those in the government of South Sudan who want to kill him. James Gatdet Dak’s life must be saved and set free immediately by South Sudan government,” the 27-members bloc explained.

The agencies said Kenya coordinated James Gatdet’s November 2016 abduction.

“James Gatdet Dak was abducted from his home in Nairobi, Kenya, by Kenyan security agents in collaboration with South Sudan national security. He was later extradited and handed over to the South Sudan government on 3 November 2016. The governments of Kenya and South Sudan coordinated the abduction and extradition despite the fact that the Kenya government was aware of James Gatdet Dak being in Kenya under legal asylum status,” the group charged.

The group further asserted that James Gatdet was targeted simply because of his critical views against the government, “condemning massacres of civilians in Juba and since then after the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan on 15 December 2013.”

In the document, the human rights defenders disclosed that James’s trial was politically motivated and accused Juba of pursuing an ethnic and political case against him.

“James Gatdet Dak is a victim of political and tribal hatred among the Juba political elite. The charges against him are untrue. The charges are politically motivated and complete fabrications of the government of South Sudan. The main target is his former boss Dr Riek Machar and the verdict is not for him but sent directly to his former boss. James Gatdet Dak is a political prisoner who should have been released as provided for under Article 9(2)(c ) and (4) of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access which stipulates for the release of all political prisoners and detainees within 14 days from the date the Agreement comes into effect,” the statement reads in part.

The group urges Juba to release other prisoners such as William John Endley whom the same court sentenced to death recently on similar politically motivated charges dubbed as a supporter of SPLM/A-IO leader Dr Riek Machar and Mark Kidor, former rebel military governor of Kapoeta kidnapped recently in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya by South Sudanese security apparatus, former Secretary-General of the South Sudan Law Society, human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak, and Aggrey Idri Ezbon the chair of the SPLM/A-IO’s Humanitarian Affairs Committee.

James Gatdet is currently being confined in the notorious Jebel Blue House detention facility run by South Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Numerous reports suggest that James was tortured and placed under harsh conditions after his arrival in Juba.

After his arrival in Juba in November 2016, James was immediately charged with treason, incitement to violence, and an insult to President Kiir. He was sentenced to death by hanging (treason), 20 years imprisonment (incitement to violence), and 1-year confinement (insult to the President) last month. The bloc calls on the Kenyan government to help save James’s life, accusing Nairobi of complicity in the act. The group also calls on the African Union Chairman Paul Kagame to hold Juba accountable and urges Kiir to immediately set free James Gatdet.

The document was signed by Al-Amin Kimathi: Human Rights Defenders-Kenya, South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy-South Sudan, CI-Burundi, Muungano wa Watetezi Mashinani-Kenya, Nuer Christian Youth for Peace and Development-South Sudan, Centre for Participatory Development-South Sudan, Kenya Peasants League-Kenya, CCI-Kenya, Advocacy for Peace, Justice and Democracy-South Sudan, Young-Adult Empowerment Initiative-South Sudan, Human Rights Defender-Democratic Republic of Congo, United People’s Power-Kenya, National Land Accord Movement-Kenya, Good Health Community Programmes Kakamega County-Kenya, Nile Valley Roots Organisation-South Sudan, Fahamu Africa, Covener, Future of Africa Foundation, Sauti Ya Wanjiku-Kenya, National Consortium of Human Rights Defenders-South Sudan, Nuer Christian Youth for Peace and Development-South Sudan, CWHRD-Kenya, Gender Empowerment for South Sudan, Human Rights Defender-Kenya, Anataban-South Sudan, International Youth for Africa-South Sudan, Dandora Human Rights Network-Kenya, and Human Rights Defender-Kenya.

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