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South Sudan’s National Security Bill raises concerns

Francis Michael
South Sudan’s National Security Bill, passed by the law-making body on October 8, has roused fears among civil society activists, journalists and politicians.
27.10.2014  |  Juba
شرطة جنوب السودان، 17 يناير.
شرطة جنوب السودان، 17 يناير.

South Sudan’s legislative body approved the new National Security Bill, President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s ratification is still pending.

Many citizens believe the new law must provide protection for the state and citizens alike and citizens shall be given the opportunity to exercise full freedoms without restrictions or arrests unless they commit a crime against the state.

South Sudan citizen A. S. who refused to disclose his full name due to security reasons says, South Sudan is copying repressive and dictatorial regimes. We support the rule of the law, not a security state that restricts freedoms.”

Also read:
South Sudan’s National Security Bill: Merits and Public Reactions
Sudd Institute
Opposition parties in South Sudan released a joint press statement on October 18, explaining that the draft security act was conflicting with Article 28 of the Legislative Council’s regulations as well as with Article 159 of South Sudan’s provisional constitution which stipulates that security bodies shall respect the people’s will, rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The statement also suggests that the draft security act constitutes a flagrant violation of the interim constitution, considering the vast powers it gives to the security bodies including inspection procedures, confiscation of property, arrests, detentions and monitoring of publications including radio stations.

Opposition parties appealed to the President to send back the draft law to the parliament, since security law requires national consensus — especially in light of the ongoing crisis.

The statement added that the parties would jointly work with other social groups, which they have not named yet, to ensure the availability of a security law that serves the interests of the people of South Sudan.

Fears have risen within the circles of political parties and activists since the law might open a new era that restricts political freedoms of parties as well as political activists.

The president should, therefore, send back this law to the National Assembly.”
Mahjoub Bill
Mahjoub Bill, Spokesperson of the SPLM-DC, says the law will make South Sudan an absolute security state. The most dangerous feature about the draft Security Bill is reflected in the power of detention and arrest granted to the security apparatus without trial or legal liability for up to ten years,” he explains.

The president’s approval of the draft law will usher a new beginning for exercising systematic repression committed under the law in addition to the abolition of all freedoms given by South Sudan’s provisional constitution in accordance with Article 159. The president should, therefore, send back this law to the National Assembly,” Bill adds.

The head of civil society organisations in South Sudan, Joseph Deng Atway, says they want a law that inflicts no harm to citizens and in which responsibilities and rights are clear. He adds that the law must take into consideration legal articles and work for uniting the people of South Sudan in addition to achieving political and social stability in the country.

This law, according to journalist Peter Naguj, is a replica of the Sudanese state scenario in South Sudan reflected in the powers enjoyed by al-Bashir’s government security apparatus to protect the regime rather than the state”.

He adds that even without any law, violations would be committed against journalists should they oppose government opinions. This law, however, is aimed to legitimise such violations. What is the point of separation if we were to replicate Sudan’s experience?”

However, Naguj ruled out the ratification of the draft act by the president. But some others believe that the SPLM’s objective is to protect the government through this bill — especially in view of the current crisis.

Any law that aims to protect the interests of individual groups will negatively boomerang in the future,” says a Juba-based journalist who wishes to remain anonymous.

Laws must be enacted to serve the interest of the future generations. If I were in the president’s shoes, I would not ratify this law as it will jeopardise the future,” he adds.