March 27, 2021 (NAIROBI) – Human rights activists in South Sudan are facing threats, intimidation and harassment, with those seen as a threat by government becoming a target, a new report says.
- Southern Sudanese police in a convoy on the streets of Juba (UN photo)
The 43-page report by Front Line Defenders said many human rights defenders have been forced to leave South Sudan and end up becoming one of the millions of Sudan Sudanese refugees.
The Dublin-based entity accused South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) of being responsible most of the threats on activists.
“As a result, many HRDs [Human Right Defenders] have had to leave the country, joining the millions of South Sudanese refugees in the region. Many of these HRDs have persisted in their human rights work from abroad, maintaining their activism as a way to support and advocate for their communities, the environment and in defence of human rights issues,” partly reads the report.
It adds, “Other HRDs only took up activism once they left the country, prompted by their experiences as refugees”.
According to the organization some activists continue their advocacy for human rights from abroad, but this does not necessarily mean they escape the wrath of the government in Juba.
“Leaving South Sudan, however, is not enough to guarantee their safety and also poses a range of other challenges to HRDs. Even when HRDs cross a border, they can still be targeted,” it noted.
Meanwhile the governments in Uganda and Kenya allegedly give South Sudanese actors the freedom to target human rights workers, with NSS agents thought to be operating in the neighboring nations.
“The governments of neighbouring countries, Kenya and Uganda especially, bear a responsibility to protect the refugees they welcome on their territory,” it observed.
It said Kampala and Nairobi are breaking international law by allowing NSS agents intimidate and carry out abductions on their soil.
The Dublin-based organization urged South Sudan government to immediately order all operations by the NSS and other agencies targeting HRDs and refugee HRDs to cease and desist and ensure that HRDs and refugee HRDs are not subjects to threats, harassment, intimidation or violations at the hands of South Sudanese agents, whether in South Sudan or abroad.
It further appealed to the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan to pay special attention to the situation of HRDs inside and outside the country and document the threats and intimidation efforts of the NSS and other actors, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
South Sudan has been struggling to recover from five years of a civil war that killed almost 400,000 people, according to reports. A Transition Government of National Unity formed last year between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar is implementing a peace deal which is behind schedule, while deadly violence continues in parts of the country.