a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
The United Nations, international ceasefire monitors, human rights organizations, and media outlets reported that the government or its agents committed numerous 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 widespread extrajudicial killings in conflict zones (see section 1.g.).
There were numerous reports of unlawful killings similar to the following example: The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Human Rights Division (HRD) documented the killing on February 3 of a local chief in Girim, Central Equatoria State. The killing followed an argument between SSPDF soldiers and the chief and his son. The SSPDF soldiers took the chief to the bank of a river where they shot him repeatedly, “so many times that his body was effectively dismembered,” in what the report described as an attempt to terrorize the local population.
Security and opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government or the opposition, and ethnically based groups abducted an unknown number of persons, including women and children (see section 1.g.).
The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan issued a report in February that alleged a continuing practice of unlawful or arbitrary detention, followed by extrajudicial killings in secret, but the report did not publish details on specific cases. In July reports circulated that a woman named Atong James had been arrested by NSS agents and died in custody.
During the year a UN Security Council (UNSC) panel of experts concluded that opposition figures Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Idris Ezbon were forcibly abducted from Kenya and illegally extradited to South Sudan in 2017 (see section 1.e.). Both men were observed inside the NSS “Blue House” detention facility, but later they were moved to another NSS facility in Luri, northwest of Juba. Later that month, NSS officers executed the two men under orders from their superiors. The government continued to deny responsibility for their disappearances and denied the UNSC panel’s version of events.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The transitional constitution prohibits such practices, but security forces mutilated, 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.).
According to the UNSC panel of experts and several independent human rights advocates, the NSS Operations Division maintained a facility known as “Riverside” where it detained, interrogated, and sometimes tortured civilians. The panel of experts also alleged the existence of secret, unofficial detention centers operated by the NSS. The panel of experts reported allegations of torture, including electrical shocks, and beatings.
The UNMISS HRD documented 21 allegations of torture to extract confessions or information by members of the NSS during campaigns against opposition armed groups in Central Equatoria State.
There were numerous reported abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, beating and torture of detainees, and harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers. According to reports by multiple UN bodies and nongovernmental organizations, during the year government forces committed widespread acts of sexual violence, including “rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, torture, castration, or forced nudity.”
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and 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.
Nonviolent offenders were kept with violent offenders because of resource and spatial constraints. Media reports during the year stated that the National Prison Service held at least 82 inmates with mental disabilities. Persons determined by a judge to be sufficiently dangerous (and “mentally ill”) following referral by family or the community, were incarcerated, medicated, and remained in detention until a medical evaluation determined they were no longer a threat and could be released.
Health care and sanitation were inadequate, and basic medical supplies and equipment were lacking. According to NGOs, prisoners received one meal of low nutritional value 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 SSPDF-run detention facilities were similar, and in some cases worse, with many detainees held outdoors with poor access to sanitary or medical facilities.
UNMISS maintained facilities at Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites in Juba, Malakal, Bentiu, and Bor to hold internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were criminal suspects. Authorities did not intend the holding facilities to house IDPs for more than 72 hours, but they sometimes held IDP suspects longer due to delays in determining how to treat individual cases or the inability to reintroduce offenders into PoC sites because of threats from their victims or the threat the offender posed to the greater community. UNMISS observed prisoners daily and offered medical treatment for serious complications. Prisoners received food twice a day. Some prisoners detained by UNMISS police were subsequently turned over to the custody of the government.
The NSS operated a detention facility in Juba that held civilian prisoners (see section 1.d.).
Administration: The SSNPS continued reporting 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.
The SSNPS allowed most prisoners access to visitors and permitted them to take part in religious observances, but NSS and SSPDF authorities were less likely to do so, and prisoners in SSNPS custody but originally arrested by NSS or SSPDF also had limited access to visitors. The SSNPS 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 SSNPS permitted visits by independent human rights observers, including UNMISS human rights officers, nongovernmental observers, international organizations, and journalists. Authorities sometimes permitted monitors to visit detention facilities operated by the SSPDF. International monitors were denied permission to visit facilities operated by the NSS, which held both military prisoners and civilians without legal authority.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The transitional constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. The government, however, arrested and detained individuals arbitrarily. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention, but there were no known cases where an appellant successfully sought compensation for wrongful detention.
Since the beginning of the crisis in 2013, there were regular reports that security forces conducted arbitrary arrests, including of journalists, civil society actors, and supposed political opponents (see sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.g.). While not legally vested with the authority, the SSPDF often arrested or detained civilians. The NSS also routinely detained civilians. Security services rarely reported such arrests to police, other civilian authorities, or, in the case of foreigners arrested, diplomatic missions. Police also routinely arrested civilians based on little or no evidence prior to conducting investigations and often held them for weeks or months without charge or trial.
There were numerous reported arbitrary arrests or detentions similar to the following example: On July 17, the NSS detained Michael Christopher, former editor in chief of the Arabic-language daily al-Watan. On July 15, NSS officers at the Juba airport briefly detained Christopher and seized his passport as he tried to fly to Nairobi, Kenya, and he was told to report to NSS headquarters the next day. He was detained and held for more than a month before being released on August 25 without charges. Although the NSS refused to say why it was holding him, in January, Christopher had published a series of editorials in which he called the Sudanese government of Omar al-Bashir a dictatorship and predicted its downfall.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
While the law requires police to bring arrested persons before a public prosecutor, magistrate, or court within 24 hours, there were no public prosecutors or magistrates available below the county level in most areas. Court dockets often were overwhelmed, and cases faced long delays before coming before a judge. Police may detain individuals for 24 hours without charge. A public prosecutor may authorize an extension of up to one week, and a magistrate may authorize extensions of up to two weeks. Authorities did not always inform detainees of charges against them and regularly held them past the statutory limit without explanation. Police sometimes ignored court orders to bring arrested persons before the court. Police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges were often unaware of the statutory requirement that detainees appear before a judge as quickly as possible. Police commonly conducted arrests without warrants, and warrants were often irregular, handwritten documents. Warrants were commonly drafted in the absence of investigation or evidence. There were multiple reports of arrests in civil cases, where a complainant exerted influence upon police to arrest someone as a negotiation tactic. The government routinely failed to notify embassies when detaining citizens of other countries, even when the detainee requested a consular visit.
Impunity of the security services was a serious problem. Although some internal investigations within the army and police were launched during the year, there were reportedly no cases of security-sector abuse referred to civilian courts, and undue command influence over the military justice system was a persistent problem.
The code of criminal procedure allows bail, but this provision was widely unknown or ignored by justice-sector authorities, and they rarely informed detainees of this possibility. Because pretrial appearances before judges often were delayed far past statutory limits, authorities rarely had the opportunity to adjudicate bail requests before trial. Those arrested had a right to an attorney, but the country had few lawyers, and detainees were rarely informed of this right. The transitional constitution mandates access to legal representation without charge for the indigent, but defendants rarely received legal assistance if they did not pay for it. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders, civil society activists, businesspersons, journalists, and other civilians due to ethnicity or possible affiliation with opposition forces. The SSPDF and NSS often abused political opponents and others whom they detained without charge. Ignorance of the law and proper procedures also led to many arbitrary detentions. Many justice-sector actors, including police and judges, operated under a victim-centric approach that prioritized restitution and satisfaction for victims of crime, rather than following legal procedure. This approach led to many arbitrary arrests of citizens who were simply in the vicinity when crimes occurred, were of a certain ethnicity, or were relatives of suspects. For example, there were numerous reports women were detained when their husbands, accused of having unpaid debts, could not be located. On May 18, the NSS detained youth activist Michael Wetnhialic after he testified for the defense in the trial of Kerbino Wol Agok, Peter Biar Ajak, and other prisoners who allegedly took over the NSS’s “Blue House” detention facility in October 2018. Although the NSS told the court he was not arrested for his testimony, as of October, Wetnhialic had not been charged with any offenses and remained in NSS custody without access to his family and lawyer.
Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem due largely to the lack of lawyers and judges; the difficulty of locating witnesses; misunderstanding of constitutional and legal requirements by police, prosecutors, and judges; and the absence of a strong mechanism to compel witness attendance in court. The length of pretrial detention commonly equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Estimates of the number of pretrial detainees ranged from one-third to two-thirds of the prison population. The chronic lack of access to law enforcement officers and judicial systems became even more severe as armed conflict displaced officials (see section 1.g.).
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have very little ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court or magistrate, despite having the right to do so under the law.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The transitional constitution provides for an independent judiciary and recognizes customary law. While the law requires the government to maintain courts at federal, state, and county levels, lack of infrastructure and trained personnel made this impossible, and few statutory courts existed below the state level.
In the majority of communities, customary courts remained the principal providers of justice services. Customary courts maintained primary authority to adjudicate most crimes other than murder. Customary courts could deal with certain aspects of murder cases if judges remitted the cases to them to process under traditional procedures and determine compensation according to the customs of the persons concerned. If this happens, the judge can sentence the individual who commits a killing to no more than 10 years’ imprisonment. Government courts also heard cases of violent crime and acted as appeals courts for verdicts issued by customary bodies. Legal systems employed by customary courts varied, with most emphasizing restorative dispute resolution and some borrowing elements of sharia (Islamic law). Government sources estimated customary courts handled 80 percent of all cases due to the capacity limitations of statutory courts.
Political pressure, corruption, discrimination toward women, and the lack of a competent investigative police service undermined both statutory and customary courts. Patronage priorities or political allegiances of traditional elders or chiefs commonly influenced verdicts in customary courts. Despite numerous pressures, some judges appeared to operate independently.
Under the transitional constitution, defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary), be tried fairly and publicly without undue delay, be present at any criminal trial against them, confront witnesses against them, present witnesses and evidence, not be compelled to incriminate themselves, and to legal counsel.
Despite these protections, law enforcement officers and statutory and customary court authorities commonly presumed suspects to be guilty, and suspects faced serious infringements of their rights. Free interpretation was rarely offered, and when it was, it was of low quality. Most detainees were not promptly informed of the charges against them. Prolonged detentions often occurred, and defendants generally did not have adequate access to facilities to prepare a defense. While court dates were set without regard for providing adequate time to prepare a defense, long remands often meant detainees with access to a lawyer had sufficient time to prepare. Magistrates often compelled defendants to testify, and the absence of lawyers at many judicial proceedings often left defendants without recourse.
Public trials were the norm both in customary courts, which usually took place outdoors, and in statutory courts. Some high-level court officials opposed media access to courts and asserted media outlets should not comment on pending cases. The right to be present at trial and to confront witnesses was sometimes respected, but in statutory courts, the difficulty of summoning witnesses often precluded exercise of these rights. No government legal aid structure existed.
Defendants did not necessarily have access to counsel or the right of appeal, and discrimination against women was common. Some customary courts, particularly those in urban areas, had fairly sophisticated procedures, and verdicts were consistent. Some customary court judges in Juba kept records that were equal to or better than those kept in government courts.
Defendants accused of crimes against the state were usually denied these rights.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Reportedly, in an effort to intimidate or stifle opposition, and despite the release of political prisoners associated with opposition peace agreement signatories, there were reports of dozens of political prisoners and detainees held by authorities from a few hours to a few days or weeks prior to release, and usually without charge. Prominent political prisoners often were held for extended periods and were sometimes sentenced to death.
For example, following a social media campaign calling for street protests against the government, known as the Red Card Movement, there were allegations of individuals accused of involvement in the movement being detained, subjected to torture, and there was one case of an alleged extrajudicial killing.
Amnesty: In August 2018, President Salva Kiir declared a “general amnesty to the leader of SPLM-IO Riek Machar Teny and other estranged groups who waged war against the Government of the Republic of South Sudan from 2013 to date.” Subsequently, in October 2018, President Kiir ordered the release from prison of Riek Machar’s former spokesman James Gatdet Dak and military adviser William John Endly, who had been sentenced to death. This general grant of amnesty potentially posed serious impediments to achieving justice and accountability for the victims of atrocity crimes.
Politically Motivated Reprisal Against Individuals Located Outside the Country
There were credible reports that, for politically motivated purposes, South Sudan attempted to exert bilateral pressure on other countries aimed at having them take adverse actions against specific individuals. For example, there were credible reports that during the year the NSS pressured the Government of Uganda to monitor, intimate, and forcibly return South Sudanese human rights defenders residing in Uganda.
A UN panel of experts report released during the year concluded that opposition figures Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Idris Ezbon were forcibly abducted from Kenya and illegally extradited to South Sudan in 2017 and that it was “highly probable” they were executed shortly thereafter (see section 1.b.).
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Statutory and customary courts provided the only options for those seeking to bring claims to address human rights violations, and these claims were subject to the same limitations that affected the justice sector in general.
The government rarely provided proportionate and timely restitution for the government’s confiscation of property. Human rights organizations documented instances, where the population was perceived to be antigovernment, of government forces systematically looting abandoned property in conflict areas.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The transitional constitution prohibits interference with private life, family, home, and correspondence. Authorities, however, reportedly violated these prohibitions.
To induce suspects to surrender, officials at times held family members in detention centers.
g. Abuses in Internal Conflict
Since the conflict between the government and opposition forces began in 2013, security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and civilians committed conflict-related abuses and violations around the country. The peace agreement signed in September 2018 resulted in a ceasefire that signatories to the agreement largely observed among themselves, resulting in an overall reduction of political violence, but fighting primarily involving government forces and nonsignatory groups continued in some areas of the country. UNMISS HRD assessed that the overall level of human rights violations associated with conflict had decreased in most areas. While both government and opposition forces committed abuses, the United Nations and international NGOs reported government forces were responsible for a significant range of conflict-related abuses against civilians. Government soldiers reportedly engaged in acts of collective punishment and revenge killings against civilians assumed to be opposition supporters and often based on their ethnicity, particularly in the Equatorias. In February the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reported on a pattern of deliberately targeting civilians based on their ethnic identity, including obstructing humanitarian aid, and concluded that government forces were responsible for acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Atrocities included unlawful killings, rape and gang rape employed as a weapon of war, arbitrary detention, and torture, enforced disappearances, explosive remnants of war, forced displacement, the mass destruction of homes and personal property, widespread looting, and use of child soldiers.
Casualty totals were difficult to estimate because the belligerents typically did not maintain accurate records. In September 2018 the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported that the conflict had left at least 382,000 individuals dead, due to direct and indirect causes, between 2013 and April 2018. The number of IDPs and refugees was estimated at 3.7 million as of September. Humanitarian aid workers were subject to harassment and violence.
Killings: Government forces and armed militias affiliated with the government, frequently prompted by opposition ambushes of government soldiers, engaged in a pattern of collective punishment of civilians perceived to be opposition supporters, often based on ethnicity. There were many instances of such killings similar to the following: According to an UNMISS HRD report, 95 attacks were recorded in legacy Central Equatoria State from September 2018 to April, including 30 attacks on villages that led to the “unlawful killing of 104 civilians and wounding of 35 others as well as abduction of 187 civilians” by SSPDF and NSS forces as well as the opposition armed group National Salvation Front (NAS). The HRD reported that 99 women and girls as young as 12 were targets of rape and other forms of sexual violence during that period.
The UNMISSS HRD report on Central Equatoria State documented a deliberate effort by government forces to displace civilians by killing and raping them; looting cattle and goods; destroying property to prevent the return of those who managed to flee, followed by repeated incursions into an area to prevent the return of those who fled; and by frequently obstructing humanitarian assistance. Displaced civilians were often forced to travel great distances, in dangerous circumstances, to reach the shelter, food, and safety of the UN-run PoC camps or to hide in marshes, where they risked drowning or starvation.
UN agencies and international NGOs that interviewed victims reported widespread killings, mutilations, and sexual violence, disproportionately committed by government forces but also by NAS.
Remnants of war also led to the killing and maiming of civilians. Such remnants as grenades were often left behind in schools used by government and opposition forces and by armed actors affiliated with both.
Abductions: Abductions, particularly of women and children, took place in both conflict and nonconflict zones, as government and opposition forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited children and women against their will. The United Nations and international NGOs reported multiple accounts of government soldiers or other security service members arbitrarily detaining or arresting civilians, sometimes leading to unlawful killings. The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism documented abduction of women by forces associated with the SPLM-IO (in opposition) group in May. The UNMISS HRD documented that NAS forces abducted at least 183 civilians between September 2018 and April for purposes of forced labor, forced recruitment, and sexual slavery.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition tortured, raped, and otherwise abused civilians in conflict areas. Sexual and gender-based violence was a common tactic of war employed by all parties. According to a ceasefire monitoring report in February, the UNMISS HRD documented 55 cases of violence against 175 female victims, including 134 who were victims of rape and gang rape, between September and December 2018 in the vicinity of Bentiu. The forces responsible were primarily members of the SSPDF or proxy forces aligned with First Vice President Taban Deng Gai. There was one example of a soldier being convicted by a mobile court in Bentiu for rape, but the government denied the documented allegations and claimed they were fabricated.
Men were also victims of sexual violence, but on a much-reduced scale. In its February 2018 report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan noted that rape, mutilations of sexual organs, and other forms of sexual violence targeting girls, boys, women, and men were often committed in front of children, humiliating the victims, their families, and their communities.
Child Soldiers: Following the outbreak of conflict in 2013, forced conscription by government forces as well as recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and antigovernment forces increased. Moreover, under the auspices of the South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Commission, 934 children were liberated from armed groups. Nevertheless, during the year there were widespread reports these forces continued abducting and recruiting child soldiers. Girls were recruited to wash, cook, and clean for government and opposition forces.
UNICEF estimated, as of February, 19,000 children had been recruited in the country since the conflict began in 2013 and blamed government, opposition, and militia forces. During the year UNICEF worked with the SSPDF and opposition forces to organize the demobilization of child soldiers in several instances across the country, including the release of 21 child soldiers from the SSPDF in Northern Bahr el Ghazal on September 17.
The September 2018 peace agreement mandated specialized international agencies to work with all warring parties to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers from the SSPDF, the SPLA-IO, elements of the SSOA, the Nuer White Army, and other groups, usually those involved in community defense. There were reports of child soldier recruitment associated with the cantonment, registration, and screening process under the peace agreement. In September the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan expressed concern about an uptick in reports of child soldier recruitment.
Also, see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Throughout the year the environment for humanitarian operations remained difficult and dangerous, although the ceasefire contributed to improved access and safety in most areas. Armed actors, including government and opposition forces, continued to restrict the ability of the United Nations and other international and nongovernmental organizations to safely and effectively deliver humanitarian assistance to populations in need. In May and June, 10 ambushes were reported along the Torit-Kapoeta and Torit-Juba roads in Central and Eastern Equatoria States. Access was impeded by direct denials, bureaucratic barriers, and renewed fighting in areas of the country where humanitarian needs were highest. Despite repeated safety assurances, armed elements harassed relief workers and looted and destroyed humanitarian assets and facilities, and government and rebel authorities imposed bureaucratic and economic impediments on relief organizations. Government and opposition forces continued to occupy civilian structures.
On multiple occasions, fighting between armed forces put the safety and security of humanitarian workers at risk, prevented travel, forced the evacuation of relief workers, and jeopardized humanitarian operations, including forcing organizations to suspend life-saving operations entirely in areas of active conflict. In March at least 42 humanitarians were relocated due to insecurity from Abiemnom, Koch and Leer in Unity, and Nasir and Ulang in Upper Nile; at least 98 humanitarian staff were relocated for similar reasons during the year. Delayed flight safety assurances, insecurity, and movement restrictions often prevented relief workers from traveling to conflict and nonconflict areas. Humanitarian personnel, independently or through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) access working group, negotiated with government and opposition forces and other armed groups to address access problems. These negotiations were often protracted, however, and caused significant delays in the delivery of assistance.
The humanitarian operating environment remained volatile despite improvements in some areas of the country, and the country remained very dangerous for aid workers. The most common forms of violence against humanitarian workers included robbery and looting, harassment, armed attacks, commandeering of vehicles, and physical detention. On multiple occasions, insecurity put the safety and security of humanitarian workers at risk, prevented travel, and jeopardized relief operations. From January to August, relief organizations reported more than 320 humanitarian access incidents to the United Nations. While the monthly trend represented a reduction in access incidents compared with 2018, the share of incidents involving violence against humanitarian personnel increased during the year. Since the start of the conflict in 2013, the United Nations reported at least 112 humanitarian staff members had been killed in the country. On October 27, three International Organization for Migration (IOM) volunteers were killed when they were caught in the crossfire during clashes between armed groups that broke out in Isebi, Morobo County (legacy Central Equatoria State). Another volunteer and a four-year-old child were abducted during the fighting. Two other volunteers suffered non-life-threatening injuries. IOM’s volunteers were working at Ebola screening points in the border areas between South Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Looting of humanitarian compounds and other assets was also common. In March, OCHA reported 17 significant incidents that included looting and taxation of supplies that affected food, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene programming in Duk, Jongeli. In June trucks carrying food items for prepositioning were looted by unknown perpetrators in Duk County, Jongeli. In Fangak County, local authorities confiscated assets in July when six humanitarian workers were relocated from Keew and Juaibor to Juba due to insecurity in the area.
Restrictions on humanitarian operations took other forms as well. NSS authorities operating at Juba International Airport arbitrarily denied humanitarian workers internal travel permission for a variety of constantly changing reasons, including the lack of: 1) work permits; 2) permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 3) travel approval from the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission; 4) at least six blank pages in their passports or because they did not have six months’ validity left on their passport. These restrictions were implemented inconsistently, without notice or consultation, prompting confusion regarding the required travel procedures. In June authorities in Nasir blocked a UN Humanitarian Air Service flight from Bor by demanding landing fees, causing the flight to return to Juba.
Humanitarian organizations also experienced delays (some up to six months or more) and denials of tax exemptions and were forced to purchase relief supplies on the local market, raising quality concerns. Government authorities required international NGO staff to pay income taxes and threatened national staff into paying income tax at the state level. On June 4, a UN Ebola virus disease team going to Lasu from Yei town was detained by security officials at a checkpoint for more than three hours and released after the security officials confiscated cash carried by the team.
Continuing conflict and access denial to humanitarian actors contributed to households facing acute food insecurity. It was difficult to gather information and assess some conflict-affected areas due to insecurity and lack of access.