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Rights groups pressure S Sudan parliament to revise NSS bill

Rights groups pressure S Sudan parliament to revise NSS bill

Amnesty International and Human Right Watch have asked the South Sudan national parliament to revise and pass the pending national security service amendment bill to end arbitrary arrest and abusive practices by the agency.

The human rights group in their joint statement today said the current National Security Service Act of 2014 gives the agency broad and unqualified powers that allow it to commit serious abuses with impunity, creating and sustaining a climate of repression and fear.

“An in-depth review and revision of outstanding gaps in the law governing the National Security Service is critical to reining in the notorious agency […] parliament needs to ensure that the pending law genuinely limits the security service’s powers and strengthens oversight of the agency’s activities,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

In February, 2023, the minister of cabinet affairs Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro said the Presidency scraps NSS power to arrest without warrant following the recommendation of the minster of Justice and constitutional affairs to the cabinet and presidency to limit the agency’s authority to arrest and detain suspects.

In May, 2023, the bill was tabled before the national parliament by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Justice Ruben Madol Arol but since then, the parliament could not finalized the amendment process.

The human rights groups said they noted series of positive provisions in bills that is in the parliament. The positive series includes, guiding principles founded on a respect for human rights and prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and prohibits detention or confinement by security agents.

Although the bill gives the justice minister and civilian courts greater role in prosecuting agency officials accused of crimes, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch sad the bill still contains vague and broad provisions that would allow the agency to continue to abuse human rights.

While the Bill revokes sections 54 and 55 of the National Security Service Act, which gave the agency the authority to arrest with or without a warrant, it retains its arrest authority “under emergency circumstances,” which could be subject to abuse.

It also allows arrests without a warrant in section 57, if the person is suspected of broad “crimes against the state.” During the bill’s review. “parliament should remove this power of arrest.”

Section 57 also gives any magistrate powers to visit any detention site, this section read together with section 13(15), which would allow the agency to arrest people under certain circumstances suggests that the agency can hold people in custody. The organizations said parliament should put it clear that the agency cannot detain civilians under any circumstances.

Amnesty International Human Rights watch urges the lawmakers to allow citizens participation in the amendment process.

“The public should be provided with an adequate opportunity to comment on the content of the amendment bill prior to its passage and to submit any information, analysis, and opinion on the draft amendment bill directly to the relevant body,” the joint statement partly reads.

In the meantime, experts recommend that the government should order the closure of all unauthorized detention sites operated by the security agency and release detainees or hand them over to legitimate law enforcement officials for charge and fair trial.