South Sudan: Investigate Apparent 2017 Killing of Activists
South Sudanese authorities should promptly undertake an independent and effective investigation into the apparent extrajudicial execution of two outspoken critics of the government, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. Previously unidentified assailants snatched Dong Samuel Luak, a prominent South Sudanese lawyer and human rights activist, and Aggrey Ezbon Idri , a member of the political opposition, from the streets of Nairobi, Kenya in January 2017.
On April 30, 2019, the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan issued a report finding that South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) kidnapped Dong and Aggrey in Nairobi on January 23 and 24, 2017 respectively. The UN experts said that the two men were flown to South Sudan on a commercial plane chartered with the help of South Sudan’s embassy in Nairobi on January 27. They were detained in the NSS headquarters at Jebel in the capital, Juba, then moved to the NSS training facility on President Salva Kiir’s farm in Luri, near Juba. The panel of experts concluded that it is “highly probable” that the two were executed there on January 30, 2017.
“The UN experts panel’s finding that Dong and Aggrey were most likely murdered days after their abduction while family and friends were stonewalled by Kenyan and South Sudanese authorities shows shocking cruelty,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “South Sudanese authorities should stop blocking this case and grant independent investigators access to security facilities in Jebel and Luri.”
South Sudanese authorities should also allow independent ceasefire monitors, the UN Panel of Experts, and the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan access to the alleged
detention site at Luri, the organizations said.
On January 17, 2019, a Kenyan High Court ended its 24-month oversight of the Kenyan police investigation initiated immediately after the disappearance of both men in Nairobi, stating that the police had acted “prudently and within the law.” The court said that it had to respect the police approach and timeline, and that the victims’ families should pursue alternative administrative remedies such as filing a complaint with the Internal Police Oversight Authority.
The men’s disappearance is widely viewed to be the result of collusion between South Sudan and Kenya, but both governments have consistently denied having custody of the two or knowledge of their whereabouts.
However, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had received credible reports that the two men had been seen at the NSS headquarters in Juba on January 25 and 26, 2017, and were then removed from this facility on January 27.
The UN Panel of Experts report states that agents of the Internal Security Bureau of the National Security Service probably executed the two men. They apparently acted on the orders of the commander of the NSS training facility in Luri, the NSS commander of the Central Division, and ultimately, Lt. Gen. Akol Koor Kuc, the director general of the Internal Security Bureau of the National Security Service.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly documented the South Sudanese government’s arbitrarily arrest and detention of perceived opponents in official and unofficial NSS facilities across the country. In many cases, the authorities held people for long periods without charge or access to their families or legal representation and subjected them to torture and other ill-treatment , extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance. South Sudan should urgently reform the National Security Service in law and practice and ensure justice for those responsible for grave crimes, including as a matter of command responsibility.
“Kenya and South Sudan failed miserably in their duty of care toward Dong and Aggrey,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn, and Great Lakes Region. “Dong was registered as a refugee in Kenya and for him to be kidnapped in Kenya and taken to South Sudan to be executed, is appalling. Both governments must end the blanket denials now, tell the families and the world what exactly happened to the two men and bring those responsible to account.”