The blanket denial of right to peaceful demonstration in South Sudan

Posted: August 13, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

The blanket denial of right to peaceful demonstration and claim of threat to National Security and Public Safety: The case of 8th May 2017 Juba peaceful demonstration

By Garang Geng Akot, New Delhi, India

Juba university demonstration1

Juba university demonstration, 8 May 2017

August 13, 2017 (SSB) — The right to peaceful demonstration is an intrinsic part of democratic society and civilized nations. According to The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, South Sudan is governed on the basis of a decentralized democratic system of governance, yet one wonders why it’s become an audacious act to stage a peaceful demonstration.

Before I take you (the readers) through legal instruments that grant the right to freedom of assembly in which the right to peaceful demonstration is manifested or coupled to, right to freedom of speech and Media, allow me to talk briefly about the 8th May Juba peaceful demonstration in which I was personally a victim of arbitrary arrest.

The 8th May Juba peaceful demonstration is the latest protest against government’s poor governance with the first protest being 1982 in Wau in which the prison officers indiscriminately fired live ammunitions at the protestors. Since then, the few protests that have taken place so far are government sponsored protests.

The events that I witnessed on 8th May explains beyond any doubt that the regime is reneging on its purported democratic governance stipulated in the country’s constitution. To say the least, it was regrettable to see law enforcement officials acting antagonistically toward mere civilians’ protesters.

It was totally outrageous for security personnel to fill up the street with heavy artillery including RBGs, Tanks. To put protesters’ life more at high risk, The National Security personnel mainly new recruits (Batch 4) who were undergoing training at Luri, least educated, not knowing any law nor rule of engagement were clandestinely dressed up in riot police uniforms and enjoined by the regime to carry out its interest.

Fortunately, Juba residents being a paranoid and traumatized community having witnessed the two deadly violent of 2013 and 2016 tarried the protest leaving very few intrepid behind for arrest, and I think this was how the third bloodshed in Juba was narrowly averted.

The display of heavy weapons along Custom roundabouts and Dr. John Garang Mausoleum was not only a terrorist act but a public disorder of the highest degree, isn’t red herring to blame the peaceful protesters for the public disorder as a claim by the Investigator? I challenged the Investigator to justify who between us and their unruly officers cause public disorder?

A question the Investigator indefinitely parried. Moreover, the claim of the protest being politicized is an untenable utterance either, who in South Sudan still not aggrieved only to be politically influenced? My cousin was seriously wounded in Raja battle, we had to treat our son as the family yet he was wounded on national duty.

Why would I treat government soldier and leave the government to do boondoggles in Juba? In this case, do I really need to be politically influenced to protest against government complete fiasco on its duties toward citizens? The truth of the matter is that South Sudan citizens are paranoid and traumatized, so they choose to die of hunger peacefully in their respective tukuls than to be slain in the street.

It is against this backdrop that the writer of this article opines that there was a blatant abuse of power by the Government of South Sudan. It was that military reign of terror, intimidation, the unwarranted and arbitrary detention that moves this writer to pen down the salient facts.

South Sudan is a member of African Union Constitutive Act, however, it ignores the merits of article 9 of the Charter which accords individual’s right to expression and dissemination of his opinion of the law. In Law Office of Ghazi Suleiman v. Sudan II (2003), the commission affirmed that ‘the fundamental importance of freedom of expression and information as an individual human right, as a cornerstone of democracy and as a means of ensuring respect for all human rights and freedoms.

Nelson Mandela once said “where globalization means, as it’s so often done, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom”

That is to say, in the country where tens of thousands are killed, more than 3 million displaced and an estimated 6 million people at the high risk of hunger, to say nothing of its impact on country’s economy, the citizens have the right to protest against the state failure to address the cause of suffering.

Peaceful protest without the use of violent force is not a threat to the interest of national security or public safety because it causes no harm to the public. It’s a violation of human rights and the Constitution itself to arbitrarily arrest, detain and kill peaceful demonstrators.

The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan under the bill of rights guaranteed that rights and freedoms of individuals and groups enshrined in the Bill shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons. It means that the government has a thick skin whereby any aggrieved citizen shall have a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.

The international and regional human rights treaties obligate states parties to fully observe, respect and promote human rights as a cornerstone of good governance. South Sudan as a member to some of these treaties is not the exception to this obligation.

The continued violation of rights in South Sudan is an indication that the government wants to maintain status quo. In the country where reconciliation and healing are needed utmost, the government continues to create a rough and bitter relationship between itself and people.

Although article 7of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guaranteed that every individual has the right to have his cause heard including the right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his fundamental rights, still those whom rights are infringed find themselves in the situation where they have no option but to relinquish their rights.

The resolution No.281 on the right to peaceful demonstrations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights meeting at its 55th Ordinary Session held from 28 April to 12 May 2014, in Luanda, Angola;

Calls on States Parties to:

  • Refrain from conducting arbitrary arrests and detentions of demonstrators and calls for their immediate release;
  • Refrain from disproportionate use of force against demonstrators whilst fully complying with international standards on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials;
  • Conduct impartial and independent investigations into all human rights violations to ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable;
  • Protect peaceful protesters regardless of their political affiliation, and/or sex;
  • Fully abide by their regional and international obligations to respect fundamental rights and freedoms;
  • Uphold the right to a fair trial before an independent ordinary court of law and put an end to arbitrary arrests and detentions and to the use of special courts, including military tribunals for civilians;
  • Ensure that any legislation governing the exercise of fundamental human rights fully complies with the relevant regional and international standards;

Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its Articles 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 guaranteed rights and freedoms that all states parties’ must abide by and promote them at all level.

All things considered, it seems reasonable to me to assume that the future of this country is in jeopardy and can be put back on track only by adhering to rule of law.

The writer holds Bachelor Degree of Laws (LL.B) from University of Juba and currently studying Masters of Law in International Law at Sharda University, New Delhi, India. Reach him at garanggengakot@gmail.com or +919582792868

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is 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 paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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