National News

Government urged to reveal Whereabouts of two human rights activists

Dong Sammuel Luak (File Photo)

By Morris Dogga

Two Human rights organizations-Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch-are calling on the government to reveal the fate and whereabouts of two South Sudanese activists who went missing in Kenya in 2017.

The two men-Dong Samuel Luak and Aggray Idri were abducted from the streets of Nairobi, Kenya on 23 and 24 January 2017 respectively.

Luak was a registered refugee while Idri was an opposition member loyal to the former first vice President Dr. Riek Machar.

On 27th January 2017 a Kenyan court ruled against their deportation to South Sudan.

The abduction is widely viewed as the result of collusion between South Sudan and Kenya but both governments have denied having custody of the men or knowledge of their whereabouts.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said they were told by credible sources that the two had been seen whikle detained by the National Security Service (NSS) on the 25 and 26 January last year.

According to the human rights bodies the two men were then taken away from the facility on January 27 to an unknown location.

“South Sudanese leaders should demonstrate their commitment to basic human rights and take concrete action on enforced disappearances and unlawful detention,” said Jehanne Henry, Human Rights Watch’s Africa division team leader.

Henry said the government should investigate the shocking forced disappearance of two prominent men and make good their pledge to release wrongfully held political detainees.

However the government has denied any hand in the disappearance saying that the two were out of the country on the day they went missing.

“Luak and Idri were kidnapped in Kenya and hence it is the government of Kenya to give an explanation as to their whereabouts. How can you hold the government responsible for people who disappeared in another country? If they were here we would have set them free,” Government Spokesperson Michael Makuei Lueth said in a phone interview with Juba Monitor.

He denied claims by human rights groups that the country was still hiolding political detainees. They had called for the immediate release of any person held because of political reasons a claim that Makuei brushed off.

“That is not correct. That is absolute rubbish. We do not have them. How do you release people who are not under your custody? He quipped.

South Sudanese leaders agreed to release “any person who has been deprived of his or her liberty for reasons related to the conflict” as part of a December 21, 2017 Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed by parties to the conflict.

While the government had released around 30 people it called “political detainees” in August 2017, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe that many more remain in detention without charge, most of them accused of communicating with, or mobilizing people on behalf of the opposition.

The human rights watch said the abuses have reached across South Sudan’s borders. South Sudanese human rights activists and opposition members living in Uganda and Kenya have reported intimidation and threats, allegedly from South Sudan’s government agents.

“South Sudanese authorities continue to show their total disregard for human life and dignity by appearing to condone or turn a blind eye to unlawful detentions and enforced disappearances,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes.

“They must take concrete steps to promptly, effectively and impartially investigate the disappearances of Luak and Idri and charge, or release all remaining political detainees in line with South Sudan’s domestic and international legal obligations,” he added.

The human Rights Organizations said the delays in peace talks should not excuse ongoing detentions and inaction on enforced disappearances.

The disappearances of Luak and Idri are part of a larger pattern by the South Sudan government to silence its critics by harassing, intimidating, arbitrarily detaining and forcibly disappearing them, the two organisations said.

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