Mabur-Zeed Detention Center in Yirol: A Detention Facility Worse than Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba

Posted: January 16, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Commentary, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, Tong Kot Kuocnin

By Tong Kot Kuocnin, Nairobi, Kenya

Prisoner in Rumbek

January 16, 2017 (SSB) —- The detention center at Mabur-Zeed in Yirol has become emblematic of gross human rights abuses and violations perpetrated by the government of the State in the name of keeping the security of the State. The detentions at Mabur-Zeed and the wider lack of rule of law policies and practices continue to inflict serious damage on the dignity of the human person and a clear manifestation of the brutality of the government of the day which is hostile to dissenting voices in Yirol.

While Mabur-Zeed has never been reported in the news headlines about human rights abuses being meted on the innocent people in that particular part of the world, the human rights concerns associated with it are far more serious and worse than that of Guantanamo bay Prison in Cuba. Detainees at Mabur-Zeed detention center are subjected to a myriad of unaccountable human rights abuses and violations ranging from arbitrary detention without proper legal procedures being followed, indefinite detention, torture and incommunicado or prolonged detention even when the court of law says that the detention is illegal.

Each and every detainee is lashed everyday with any number of lashes the authority ordered on him. A number of detainees have been shot dead based on the orders of the governor and wounded were refused to be taken to hospital for medical attention until they also died of gunshot wounds lying on the ground of the detention facility. This is very heartless act on another fellow human being. There is just widespread and systematic torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment being meted on the detainees in Mabur-Zeed detention center.

From day one, the state administration failed to recognize the applicability of human rights laws to detainees at Mabur-Zeed detention facility. As one year has already lapsed, Governor Rin’s administration is still failing to address the detentions fall within human rights framework. The failure to resolve the detentions and to ensure accountability for these grave breaches of human rights principles and set a stage for remedies to the victims onto whom these brutal abuses have been meted on them and to allow the overseers of the detention center be held accountable and pay for their brutality would be misconstrue by the perpetrators and claim it to be a high moral ground where human suffering is exalts and celebrated.

As South Sudan is obligated to strictly adhere to human rights principles, standards and best practices, Eastern Lakes State isn’t an island that exists on its own but a part of the territories constituting the present day Republic of South Sudan and hence is obliged to observe human rights of its people by ensuring that each and every citizen is treated humanely because under international law and domestic law, politics may not be invoked to justify any violation of individual’s right nor can it be invoked to justify any failure to comply with treaty obligations to which South Sudan is a party because international law demands that solutions be found, not excuses.

We must stop speaking the language of human rights fluently on the global stage and for political consumption at the national level, but stumbles when it comes to applying human rights standards within ourselves. In his address on 1st January, 2016 at Freedom Hall, governor Rin spoke of his administration’s observance to the rule of law, respect for human rights and good governance but his administration’s approach to strict adherence and full observance to these tripartite principles has felt short, far beyond any measure of his pledge and promise and resolve to do the good rather than the other way round.

If Governor Rin’s administration wishes to end these transmissions and demonstrate its commitments to the rule of law respect for human rights and good governance, it should finally bring about an end to this practice of indefinite detention without trial, disavow its doctrine of state pervasive war on criminals, and embrace international human rights standards not just in words but in deeds. It bears repeating that among those taken into custody are critics of the government and others are detained on loose criminal charges particularly theft.

Detainees have the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention and adjudication of habeas corpus petitions to produce said detainees before the court of law must be practice if at all the government believes that these detainees have indeed committed crimes which falls within the ambit of the enacted laws and are therefore trialable. Continuous detentions of the detainees without trial even if they have indeed committed any crime which warrant any trail is a clear violation of the provisions of the constitution which grants everyone the right to a speedy trial because justice delayed is justice denied.

However, a court’s power to obtain the immediate release of an unlawfully held individual must be real and effective and not merely on formal, advisory or declaratory prerogative of the governor and his associates. This is the bedrock guarantee against arbitrary detention as reflected (in article 9(4) of the ICCPR) and if it is not fully respected by the government, the right to liberty and the rule of law are more generally undermined and that’s a greatest travesty to justice.

Thus, the more these detainees sit languishing in Mabur-Zeed, as their cases gradually make their way to the courts (some completely don’t even have case file) to face inevitable denial of their rights, the more height of human rights violations grows and the more the credibility of our judicial system degrades and loses. The author of this article is not recommending charges to be taken against the governor on whose orders, a sizeable number of detainees lost their lives and on whose orders a good number of detainees have been tortured but is alerting the governor and his cohorts to stop forthwith their inhumane acts being perpetrated on the innocent people restrained of their freedoms and liberties and act like a responsible government that is there to work for all its citizens.

But I must remain vivid that the governor and his cohorts must not forget about future claims on rights abuses and violations where judicial remedies will not be ruled out even if this practice stops. Nobody is licensed to arbitrarily arrest, detain and kill any other fellow human being in Eastern Lakes State, neither the governor nor his associates have the privilege to do that business but the law. Even the president doesn’t have any constitutional power to authorize shoot-to-kill, but the question always remained an unanswered of where do our governor get these powers to authorize shoot-to-kill.

It was done by the governor of Gok State and the governor of Eastern Lakes follow suit as well. Up to this point in time, there is no any single state with Transitional Constitution and if at all there is a Constitution, the stipulations of that state constitution must conform to the provisions of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 (Amended 2015) with whose terms and clauses of the ARCISS are yet to be incorporated and sign into law by the president.

The states are running in a complete constitutional vacuum as we speak and there’s no any text of the law any governors can quote or use to defend any short-coming in his administration. Some are using the obsolete constitution of their former states which is a clear manifestation of the crux of the matter that in this country, nothing is done based on law but based on jungle guerilla laws.

As detainees are subjected to torture and other inhuman acts at the prison and before they arrive there, I must hereby reminded the authorities of Eastern Lakes that it is a fundamental rule of international law that any person whose human rights have been violated shall have access to an effective remedy and the government must be prepared for this eventuality which will haunt them even when leaving office. That detention center isn’t worthy of a place for detention and it should be closed down and find an appropriate place that is suitable for detention.

The writer is a Barrister at Law and can be reached at      

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. Thanks so much for highlighting this sad state of affairs in ELS. The governor and his administration are soulless brutes. There’s no one else, I believe, in which the bush mentality that I hear people talk about expresses itself much more clearly and grossly than in him. My cousin was among the inmates who got wounded when the prison break by inmates who have been detained there indefinitely and long – some without any clear charges – happened. He was shot five times in different parts of his body. He had only been in jail in Baburzeit for two nights, and that’s because he grabbed some lady’s phone two days prior when he was drunk in the market. Yes, my cousin committed some violation by snatching someone’s property but I don’t think it should amount to incarcerating him in this hellish military detention centre. Baburzeit is supposed to be pumping cooking oil out for the consumption of the Yeruul Population – not pouring out killing bullets and sharp whips to the poor innocent cattle camp gents. What was extremely inhumane in this incident was when the wounded were denied access to the hospital. After they got shot, they were collected, piled at the entrance to the prison, held at the legs and heads and uncaringly thrown in like animal fodder, one by one.There’s also a looting spree being carried out by this government that’s intended to amass wealth in form of cattle or money from our innocent brothers in the cattle camp. The government lays traps in the paths of cattle keepers in form of unknown laws or regulations just to make sure that they, most cattle keepers being ignorant, fall into it and be fined a whopping amount of money or by forcefully commanding the release of a certain number of their cows as fine to be handed over to the government. I don’t think this happens anywhere in South Sudan. My fear is that when these cattle keepers get fed up and pushed into a situation in which they won’t care about their lives anymore, we won’t be far from witnessing a situation similar to what has chronically plagued Rumbek for the past 7 years or so. No human being likes to be perpetually tossed, humiliated, openly robbed and degraded. There is much more to write but I need a separate space for it.


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