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South Sudan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

The United Nations, human rights organizations, and media reported the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and ethnically based groups were also responsible for extrajudicial killings in expanding conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reported unlawful killings similar to the following example: On July 11, John Gatluak, a radio journalist was shot and killed, allegedly by government forces, when the Terrain Hotel compound in Juba was attacked. According to multiple sources, Gatluak was targeted for being an ethnic Nuer.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The transitional constitution prohibits such practices, but security forces tortured, beat, and harassed political opponents, journalists, and human rights workers (see sections 2.a. and 5). Government and opposition forces, armed militia groups affiliated with both, and warring ethnic groups committed torture and abuses in conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following example: According to UN reporting, in July, during fighting in Juba and in the days following the fighting, government soldiers raped women and girls in the PoC sites and in area homes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Overcrowding and inadequate medical care at times resulted in illness and death. While some prisons employed doctors, medical care was rudimentary, and prison physicians often had inadequate training and supplies. There were reports of abuse by prison guards.

Physical Conditions: Men and women were generally, but not always, held in separate areas, but male and female inmates often mixed freely during the day due to space constraints. Due to overcrowding authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults and rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Children, especially infants, often lived with their mothers in prison.

Health care and sanitation were inadequate, and basic medical supplies and equipment were lacking. According to NGOs, prisoners received one meal per day and relied on family or friends for additional food. Potable water was limited. In some locations prisoners slept in overcrowded open hallways and buildings lined with bunk beds. Ventilation and lighting were inadequate.

Malnutrition and lack of medical care contributed to inmate deaths, although no statistics were available.

Detention centers were under the control of local tribal or state authorities, and conditions were uniformly harsh and life threatening. Many facilities in rural areas consisted of uncovered spaces where authorities chained detainees to a wall, fence, or tree, often unsheltered from the sun. As with state run prisons, sanitary and medical facilities were poor or nonexistent, and potable water was limited. Detainees sometimes spent days outdoors but slept inside in areas that lacked adequate ventilation and lighting.

Conditions in SPLA run detention facilities were similar, and in some cases worse, with many detainees held outdoors with poor access to sanitary or medical facilities.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) maintained facilities at PoC sites in Juba, Malakal, Bentiu, and Bor to hold IDPs who were criminal suspects. Authorities did not intend the holding facilities to house IDPs for more than 72 hours but sometimes held IDP suspects longer due to delays in determining how to treat individual cases. UNMISS observed prisoners daily and offered medical treatment for serious complications. Prisoners received food twice a day.

The National Security Service (NSS) operated a detention facility in Juba that held civilian prisoners (see section 1.d.).

Administration: The National Prison Service (NPS) continued weekly reporting of prisoner totals from all state prisons to its Juba headquarters, including statistics on juveniles and persons with mental disabilities (see section 1.d.). There were no prison ombudsmen.

Nonviolent offenders were kept with violent offenders because of resource and spatial constraints. There were a reported 132 juveniles in detention. The NPS reported holding 162 inmates with mental disabilities determined by a judge to be sufficiently dangerous (and “mentally ill”) after referral by family or the community, incarcerating, medicating, and keeping them in detention until a medical evaluation revealed they were no longer ill and could depart.

The NPS allowed prisoners access to visitors and permitted them to take part in religious observances, but NSS and SPLA authorities were less likely to do so. The NPS allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of allegations of inhuman conditions; prison authorities sometimes investigated such allegations, although they seldom took action.

Independent Monitoring: The NPS permitted visits by independent human rights observers, including UNMISS human rights officers, nongovernmental observers, international organizations, and journalists. Although authorities sometimes permitted monitors to visit detention facilities operated by the SPLA, they rarely, if ever, permitted monitors to visit facilities operated by the NSS, which held both military prisoners and civilians without legal authority.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of speech and press. The government and its agents frequently violated these rights, however, and the downward trend in respect for these freedoms since 2011 continued.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Civil society organizations must register with the government under the 2013 NGO Act (and the subsequent 2016 Act). The government regularly attempted to impede criticism by monitoring, intimidating, harassing, arresting, or detaining members of civil society who publicly criticized the government.

Press and Media Freedoms: The government maintained strict control of media, both print and electronic. The government suppressed dissenting voices, forcing some civil society organizations and media houses to shut down or flee the country. Most organizations practiced self-censorship to ensure their safety. During the year, the government temporarily closed newspapers for printing content deemed antigovernment. The newspapers were generally allowed to reopen a few days later. One newspaper, the Nation Mirror, was closed on September 14 after publishing the details of a report by international advocacy group The Sentry that alleged misuse of state funds by the nation’s leaders, and remained closed at year’s end. In November, NSS closed the independent radio station Eye Radio, reportedly because it aired a voice clip from SPLM-IO leader Machar; the station resumed broadcasts more than one week later. Since the outbreak of conflict in 2013, the government tried to dictate media coverage of the conflict and threatened those who tried to publish or broadcast the opposition’s views. NSS regularly harassed, intimidated, and summoned journalists for questioning. The environment for media workers remained precarious throughout the year.

Authorities made some progress on implementing the three media bills signed into law in 2013, which were intended to resolve disputes between the government and journalists through established boards responsible for the right to access information, public service broadcasting, and media authority. President Kiir appointed chairpersons and members of the boards.

Government officials or individuals close to the government regularly interfered in the publication of articles and broadcasting of programs, and high-level government officials stated press freedom should not extend to criticism of the government or soliciting views of opposition leaders.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces commonly intimidated or detained journalists whose reporting they perceived as unfavorable to the military or government. Security forces confiscated or damaged journalists’ equipment and restricted their movements. During the year, journalists were interrogated, harassed, detained, and imprisoned, and there were instances of severe violence and suspicious death. NSS representatives frequently harassed journalists by detaining them at NSS headquarters or local police stations without formal charges. Government harassment was so pronounced that several journalists fled the country. Journalists and media agencies that reported on news of the opposition could expect questioning and possibly closure. Journalists in Juba experienced threats and intimidation and routinely practiced self-censorship. On several occasions high level officials publicly used intimidating language directed toward media outlets and representatives.

There were numerous reported such abuses similar to the following example: On July 16, Alfred Taban, a journalist and editor in chief of the Juba Monitor, was arrested after publication of an editorial in which he called for the removal of President Kiir and First Vice President Machar, criticizing them for their failure to implement the August 2015 peace agreement. Taban was released on bail 13 days later. At year’s end, there was no date set for his trial.

On October 11, Malek Bol, a reporter for the Arabic-language daily al-Maugif, was found badly injured and showing signs of torture in a cemetery in Juba. According to Reporters Without Borders, fellow journalists found him three days after he disappeared. Bol had recently posted an article on social media critical of President Kiir.

In December 2015, NSS members arrested Joseph Afandi, an editor for the Arabic daily El Tabeer, at the newspaper’s offices in Juba after he wrote an editorial critical of the ruling party. Afandi was released without charge six weeks later. According to international watchdog agencies, Afandi was abducted in March, severely tortured, and dumped in a graveyard four days later.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The government, however, targeted and intimidated individuals who were critical of the government in open online forums. Additionally, in an October 12 press statement, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth threatened to “disconnect” social and other online media, after (false) rumors of the president’s death circulated and contributed to widespread fear of violence or a coup in Juba. The internet was unavailable in most parts of the country due to lack of electricity and communications infrastructure. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 18 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no known government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, and repatriation. The government, however, often restricted these rights, and routinely blocked travel of political figures within the country and outside the country. The transitional constitution does not address emigration.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees sometimes suffered abuse, such as armed attacks, killings, gender-based violence, forced recruitment, including of children, and forced labor, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees.

In-country Movement: IDPs remained on UNMISS PoC sites due to fear of retaliatory or ethnically targeted violence by armed groups, both government- and opposition-affiliated. The government often obstructed humanitarian organizations seeking to provide protection and assistance to IDPs and refugees. Continuing conflict between government and opposition forces restricted the movement of UN personnel and the delivery of humanitarian aid (see section 1.g.).

Emigration and Repatriation: The 2012 Cooperation Agreements signed by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan cover security, economic, and other matters, including an agreement to protect freedoms of residence, movement, economic activity, and property ownership for citizens of both countries residing in Sudan or South Sudan. Although negotiating parties made progress in October 2015 in Addis Ababa on border issues, the governments failed to make substantial progress on aspects of the agreement relating to each other’s nationals.

Citizenship: During the year, the government revoked the diplomatic and official passports of some SPLA-IO representatives abroad whom they deemed enemies of the state; however, there were no reports the government revoked citizenship for political reasons.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

In mid-year, conflict in the country intensified and spread to areas previously less affected by fighting. The result was mass population displacement, both within the country and into neighboring countries, and high levels of humanitarian and protection needs, which strained the ability of UN and international humanitarian personnel to provide protection and assistance. According to OCHA, conflict and food insecurity have displaced more than 1.8 million persons since December 2013, including more than 79,200 in and around Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s Wau town, and more than 1.2 million in remote areas of conflict-affected Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. Approximately 224,100 persons were sheltering in UNMISS PoC sites throughout the country as of December 12, an increase from the 193,800 sheltering in PoC sites at the end of 2015. The increased violence and food insecurity forced relief actors to delay plans for the safe return and relocation of some IDP populations.

On July 8, fighting broke out in Juba that killed hundreds of persons and newly displaced as many as 42,000 persons; nearly 39,000, both newly and previously displaced, remained in the town’s UNMISS PoC sites at year’s end. A July 11 ceasefire calmed active fighting in Juba, but reports of armed elements kidnapping and raping women outside the PoC sites increased. Relief workers recorded more than 100 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the city in July, and noted the number was likely much higher due to underreporting.

The July violence spread from Juba to the Greater Equatoria region of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Western Equatoria states, an area traditionally less conflict prone. Nearly 426,000 persons were displaced in the region as of October 31, and many fled the country. In addition fighting in Unity state’s Leer County escalated in July, resulting in further population displacements within the state and to neighboring countries. As of December 5, approximately 1 million citizens had sought refuge in neighboring countries, including nearly 371,000 who fled to Uganda after July 1.

IDPs suffered significant abuses, such as armed attacks, killings, ethnically targeted violence, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, and recruitment of child soldiers. Both government and opposition forces targeted IDPs.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The South Sudan Refugee Act provides for protection of refugees as well as the granting of asylum and refugee status. The government allowed refugees from a variety of countries to settle and generally did not treat refugees differently from other foreigners.

Access to Basic Services: While refugees sometimes lacked basic services, this generally reflected a lack of capacity in the country to manage refugee problems rather than government practices that discriminated against refugees. Refugee children had access to elementary education in refugee camps through programs managed by international NGOs and the United Nations. Some schools were shared with children from the host community. Refugees had access to judiciary services in principle, although a lack of infrastructure and staff meant these resources were often unavailable.

Due to continuing conflict and scarcity of resources, some tension existed between refugees and host communities over access to resources.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees and returnees for resettlement, although it did not publish a national strategy for facilitating integration or reintegration into local communities. No national procedures were in place to facilitate the provision of identity documents for returnees or the naturalization of refugees beyond procedures that were in place for all citizens and other applicants.

STATELESS PERSONS

Citizenship is derived through birth if a person has a South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals also may derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship.

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