South Sudan

Death penalty for treason; insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism resulting in death; perjury in a capital case leading to wrongful execution; murder; attempted murder causing injury by a person sentenced to life for a previous murder; brigandage with murder; and drug dealing under aggravated circumstances

South Sudanese pastors facing death penalty freed

2 South Sudanese pastors facing trial for espionage in Sudan have been freed.
Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Reith (also named as David Yein Reith in some reports) were being held on six charges including espionage, “offending Islamic beliefs”, promoting hatred amongst sects and undermining the constitutional system. If found guilty, they could have faced the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has been supporting the pastors, today confirmed their release.
Michael was arrested on December 14, 2014, and Reith in January of this year. They were both detained without charges, and without access to a lawyer or their families, until March 1. Ahead of their hearings, they were consistently denied access to their legal team, despite guarantees under Sudanese law.
During the final hearing in Khartoum, the defence team presented 2 witnesses. Ex-army general and 2010 presidential candidate Abdul Aziz Khalid testified that the charges of security and espionage were without basis, and told the court that evidence presented by the prosecution was available to the public. Both Michael and Reith maintained their innocence.
The pastors’ situation prompted international calls for their release from human rights groups including Amnesty International. CSW branded the charges “unwarranted and extreme” and accused Sudanese authorities of violating fair trial principles and “making a mockery of the judicial process”.
According to the US Commision on International Religious Freedom, the Sudanese government “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.” Designated by the Commission as a ‘country of particular concern’ since 1999, Sudan’s population is over 97 % Muslim, and the country’s criminal code restricts religious freedom for all citizens. It also imposes Shariah Law on Muslims and Christians, allowing the death penalty for apostasy, stoning for adultery and prison sentences for blasphemy.
The USCIRF’s 2015 report also notes the use of government policies and societal pressure to promote conversion to Islam. It is “impossible” to obtain permission to build churches, while their destruction has increased over the past 4 years.
Source: Christian Today, August 5, 2015



Amnesty International Paints Grim Picture Of Homophobia In Sub-Saharan Africa

Homophobia, including verbal harassment, physical attacks and even murder, has risen to “dangerous” levels across sub-Saharan Africa, warned a report from human rights campaigner group Amnesty International. In a document entitled, “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa,” Amnesty detailed how laws in many African countries have increased the penalties for same-sex activity, up to and including the introduction of the death penalty.

Homosexuality is currently considered a criminal offense in 38 African nations. Over the past five years, the governments of South Sudan and Burundi have enacted new laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, while Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria have proposed harsher punishments against gays and lesbians. “These attacks — sometimes deadly — must be stopped,” said Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of Law and Policy in a statement.

“No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with. In too many cases these attacks on individuals and groups are being fuelled by key politicians and religious leaders who should be using their position to fight discrimination and promote equality.”

Hostility toward homosexuals frequently leads to arbitrary arrest of persons based solely on their behavior or appearance in many nations, while the existing laws sometimes encourage police or other members of the public to commit abuse, blackmail or extortion against people perceived to be homosexual.

“The very existence of laws criminalizing same-sex relations — whether they are enforced or not — sends a toxic message that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are criminals and have no rights,” Brown added. “These poisonous laws must be repealed and the human rights of all Africans upheld.”

Uganda came in for particular excoriation from Amnesty. Noting that Kampala has repeatedly considered an anti-homosexuality bill since 2009, Amnesty suggests that the draconian punishments proposed (including a death penalty for homosexual acts) are designed to distract the public from the country’s real woes, like rising food and fuel prices.

In Cameroon in central Africa it is not unusual for homosexuals to be locked up for years without any charges being filed. South Africa, already reeling from a very high incidence of rape, also features the horrific sexual assaults (as well as murders) of lesbians as a form of “correction.” Ironically, South Africa includes the protection of gays in its constitution.

“It is time that African states stopped demonizing individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Human rights are about the dignity and equality of all people,” Brown added. “As the chorus for recognition grows stronger and stronger, African states have to stop denying that homophobia is a human rights issue. … It is their responsibility to protect, not persecute.”

BBC reported on a gay activist in the West African nation of Sierra Leone whose photo appeared in a local newspaper because he had written an article about his equality in a foreign publication. That unwanted publicity led to threats and worse.

“On my way to the hotel I was attacked by two bike riders,” he said. “By the time I could realize [what was going on] the glass on my side was smashed, so I moved to the passenger seat and later on the other glass was smashed. I managed to move out of the car and during that process I was severely beaten and I sustained bruises and injuries on my back, some lashes. Then I had to escape from the scene and report the matter to the police station.” He added that a note was left in his car which warned: “We know you people, we’re coming after you, you bloody homosexuals.” (International Business Times, June 25, 2013)

South Sudan: Campaign to abolish death penalty goes global

NOVEMBER 5, 2012

The death penalty debate in South Sudan has gone global, with a group of South Sudanese and human rights groups urging the young nation to join the great majority of United Nations members that have abolished the death penalty in either law or practice by placing a moratorium on all executions.

South Sudan, the group said in a statement, would in December this year, have its first opportunity to vote on a UN General Assembly resolution to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

“South Sudan should take the opportunity of the UN General Assembly resolution on the death penalty to join movement toward abolition across Africa and around the world,” said Audrey Gaughran, Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“President Salva Kiir Mayardit should immediately declare an official moratorium on executions, and the government should urgently address the continuing shortcomings in the country’s administration of justice,” adds the statement addressed to South Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nhial Deng Nhial.

The young nation has, in recent months, been in the spotlight after it hanged two men in Juba prison, despite widespread criticisms against use of the death penalty in a country said to have “well-documented weaknesses” in its legal systems.

In addition, more than 200 prisoners reportedly remain on death row in the country’s detention centers, said to be overcrowded and dirty.

Globally, however, more than two-thirds of UN member states- 137 countries – have reportedly abolished the death penalty in law or in
practice, including 37 of the 54 member countries of the African Union.

Samuel Dong, the Secretary General of South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) said depriving someone of the right to life is an ultimate and irreversible punishment.

“Without even the most basic legal protections in place, the risk of arbitrariness and error is too high,” he added.

Since 2006, South Sudan’s Ministry of Justice has reportedly provided legal aid in a total of only six cases, while the vast majority of prisoners on death row were reportedly not represented by counsel, leaving many unable to adequately prepare their defence or to appeal convictions.

Meanwhile, the group in their statement urged the government of South Sudan to increase public information and transparency about its use of the death penalty, including by publishing statistics on the number of executions carried out and death sentences imposed and notifying prisoners’ families of impending executions.

“The accessibility of such information is of particular importance during the current constitutional review process,” the statement further reads, while advocating for informed discussions on substantive constitution provision such as the right to life.

Daniel Bekele, the Africa Director at Human Rights Watch said transparency is fundamental to the administration of justice and critical to allowing South Sudanese to evaluate how the death penalty is being imposed.

“However, the death penalty will remain an affront to basic human rights until there is an effective moratorium and it is ultimately abolished under statutory law,” he said.

Last month, both the European Union (EU) and the French embassy in South Sudan called for immediate suspension of the death penalty in the young nation, citing the weaknesses in the country’s judicial systems.

However, Lawrence Korbandy, the Chairperson of South Sudan Human Right Commission (SSHRC) recently told Sudan Tribune that the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in the country should be a
“gradual” process.

Prisoners rot on death row in South Sudan

November 2, 2012

Kenneth Kaunda says that the only reason he is on death row in a jail in South Sudan is because he reported a corpse he found in the road four years ago with a knife stuck in its chest.

“Whether you killed or didn’t kill, you get sentenced to death — this is the situation in South Sudan,” he said, as others crowding around nod and clamour to tell similar stories of injustice.

In the ramshackle capital of the world’s newest nation, over 100 people await execution in filthy and crowded conditions, which human rights activists say break basic freedoms, with many never having even seen a lawyer. “The judge told me I’m the one who killed this person. I said: ‘Let him show me the evidence’, but he refused,” Kaunda said. He is one of eight death row inmates interviewed by AFP, none of whom had money for a lawyer.

Accused of murdering her husband, mother-of-six Stella Juwa Felix was allegedly beaten for 17 days by police, while three other suspects with lawyers were released before the trial.

The court’s decision to sentence her to death took just five minutes and like most, she claimed she was not given the chance to speak in
her defence.

“They said that my sentence was to hang me,” Felix said. “Now what am I to do? I just pray to God.”

Prison officials demand that photos taken by journalists of shackles, or disturbed prisoners left naked, locked in dank cells or smeared in their own excrement are deleted. But prison and government officials keen for outside help are quick to point out flaws in the system, from poor infrastructure, to untrained police absorbed from rebel movements.

Impoverished South Sudan was left in ruins after decades of war with Sudan before separating in 2011 after a landslide independence referendum. But like so much in the country, the legal system was left in tatters, with sometimes conflicting, overlapping systems of justice.

Lawyers and judges are few and often inexperienced, while those who have served for years trained in the Islamic-based laws of the Arab-speaking north, who sometimes cannot read new laws now written in English. “There’s a very high chance that people have been executed that have not received those fair trial protections and may in fact not be guilty of the charges brought against them,” said Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch. Apart from confirming two hangings publicised in August, officials could not say how many people face the death penalty or have been executed this year.

Fears the innocent are being sent to the gallows are glossed over, and Andrew Monydeeng, the deputy director for prisons, claims that appeals are dealt with within 14 days, and after that “fate is fate”.

But Kaunda, a former rebel soldier who fought for South Sudan’s independence, says he has received no response to an appeal filed
in 2009.

Like many others, he scoffs at the likelihood of the legal system saving him. “I cannot believe in this system,” he said, waving at the overcrowded prison, bursting with almost 1,250 inmates, almost three times the maximum number it was built for in the 1950s. “What they are doing is not law, but playing games.” Shackled in chains — to show that she faces a death sentence for the killing of a relative — 45-year old Mary Sezerina says that the prison is like a “pit of hell.”

“There was independence but nothing has changed here in the prison”, she said, adding she has not heard back from appeals made after her arrest in 2005.

During the civil war, firing squads were used, but as David Deng of the South Sudan Law Society notes, officials in the rebel movement-turned-government still see the death penalty as a useful tool. “For them capital punishment is an indispensable deterrent to try to keep a lid on some of the crime in South Sudan”, Deng said, pointing out that the country is awash with guns.

“To sentence someone to death who doesn’t have a lawyer, is unable to challenge evidence that is clearly an egregious miscarriage of the law, something which should not be permitted in any society,” he added.

While President Salva Kiir has the last say in signing lives away or pardoning those festering in jail, his legal advisor Talar Deng could not give details on how and when this has been used. But Talar insists that while lower courts may make mistakes, appeals go to experienced professionals in a higher court.

“Our systems are like any other systems, they may have some loopholes here and there,” he said.

While Talar points out the death penalty was introduced by British colonial rule — and that traditional custom was to pay cows as blood money — there seems little support to bow to calls by rights groups, the European Union and church organisations for a moratorium.

“In South Sudan, everything is a priority,” he said of the grossly underdeveloped country, a land where basic healthcare and education services are lacking, and where rule of law is more often a concept than reality. afp

SOUTH SUDAN – 15 years old sentenced to death – Save Alphonse Kenyi Makwach

Alphonse Kenyi Makwach

His story
The young Alphonse has been detained since 2010 in the death row of Juba prison, the capital of the new African state of South Sudan. He is charged with multiple murder committed at a time he was deemed to belong to a juvenile gang, called niggers.
His family, from the village of Kalitok, 85 km away from Juba, is extremely poor. Alphonse was the sixth among seven brothers and the only one who could attend the school in a college for two years.
His parents could work only occasionally and they could not afford educational programs for their sons.
In 2008 Alphonse’s family moved to the capital so that his father, who was sick, could get better medical treatment. Alphonse began to sell used plastic bottles, which he collected along the streets. In 2009, the boy was arrested in his house after a shooting which left some victims on the ground. Mild circumstantial proofs led to him, but there was no real evidence of his guiltiness.
Alphonse has repeatedly said that he had been forced with beatings by policemen to admit a murder he did not commit at all. During the summary trial, without any legal defence, Alphonse stubbornly swore his innocence. Anyway, he was sent to prison.
There he was beaten, tortured in order to extort from him an official confession. He kept declaring his innocence.
In January 2010, the minimum age to be sentenced to death in Sudan was risen from 15 to 18 years. Alphonse was just 14 when he got the capital sentence in October of that same year. At the moment his case is pending before the Supreme Court.
Inside the Juba’s death row there are now nine juveniles like Alphonse.
The appeal to save Alphonse
The Community of Sant’Egidio urges everybody to share its appeal aiming to spare Alphonse’s life from the execution, sending the following statement to the competent authorities of South Sudan by e-mail.
To the Supreme Court of South Sudan through H.E. Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin
 Your Excellencies
I am writing to express my deep concern over a ruling that sentenced to death the young Alphonse Kenyi Makwach, despite the law of South Sudan forbids by now the infliction of capital sentences to juveniles, a summary trial without any legal defence which the boy was submitted to, his not listened denounce of suffered tortures he received from the policemen during his interrogation aiming to extort a tainted confession from him, and his reiterated declarations pleading his absolute innocence.
I urge you to intervene on his behalf to prevent this cruel and inhuman punishment from being meted out against him.
I implore you to ensure that this cruel and inhuman sentence is not carried out.
Respectfully yours
(signature and date)