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UN Commission Has Advice for South Sudan’s President on Security Law

Geneva — The UN has urged South Sudan’s president to return the National Security Service Bill to legislators to align it with the country’s human rights obligations due to it entrenching arbitrary detention.

The National Security Service Act (Amendment) Bill passed by legislators last week will entrench arbitrary detention and further repression by South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS), the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said Wednesday.

“If accepted by the President, these amendments to the National Security Service Act would signal that rights violations by this powerful institution are endorsed not just by the rest of government, but legislators as well,” said commission chairperson Yasmin Sooka.

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“The Bill should be returned to legislators to work on amendments that align with the government’s commitment to scrap this institution’s arrest powers, which are systematically abused and unlawful.”

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South Sudan is the world’s newest country and gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war, but violence continues, according to the United Nations.

The commission has previously reported in detail on human rights violations by the National Security Service, including the illegal practice of prolonged and arbitrary detentions without judicial oversight or accountability.

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Victims have been tortured, with many having died in detention, according to the commission.

Rights violations have included extraordinary renditions of South Sudanese civil society members and political opponents from neighbouring countries, into National Security Service detention.

The commission said that over the past week, civil society leaders critical of government policies have been pursued and threatened with detention or worse.

“As South Sudan prepares for its first elections since independence, the citizenry must be able to exercise their civil and political rights without fear of retribution,” said Commissioner Barney Afako.

“These security amendments were intended to open up civic space, but in their present form, their effect is the opposite.”

Section 54 of the 2014 National Security Service Act empowers officers to arrest and detain anyone suspected of committing an offence against the state without a warrant.

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