South Sudan: Dozens of detainees at risk of death in shipping containers
Dozens of detainees held in dire conditions in poorly ventilated metal shipping containers, fed only once or twice a week and given insufficient drinking water are at risk of death, warned Amnesty International today.
According to information obtained by the organisation, these conditions have apparently resulted in the deaths of multiple detainees at the Gorom detention site, located about 20km south of the capital Juba. Soldiers also periodically take them out of the containers and beat them.
“Detainees are suffering in appalling conditions and their overall treatment is nothing short of torture,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“This egregious disregard for human life and dignity must stop and for that to happen, the detention site should be immediately shut down until conditions are brought into compliance with human rights standards.”
A satellite image of what Amnesty International believes to be the detention site at Gorom shows four metal shipping containers arranged in an L shape, inside two perimeter fences. According to information received by Amnesty International, the four containers are used to house detainees and were brought to the site in early November 2015.
The detainees, most of whom are civilians and have not been charged with any offence, are accused of links to the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), which is now part of the government of national unity. They do not have access to family members, lawyers, or courts.
“All detainees should be released or charged and brought before independent courts. Civilian detainees should only be held in civilian detention facilities and tried by civilian courts,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
Amnesty International has written to Major-General Marial Nour, Director of Military Intelligence, requesting additional information about the Gorom detention site, including the conditions of detention, the names of individuals who are held there and those who have died.
Amnesty International has also written to President Salva Kiir informing him of the situation at Gorom, and calling on him, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to intervene and end the human rights violations at the site.
“President Kiir should order an independent investigation into this site and into military intelligence detention practices generally, with a view to reforming the practices and ensuring that those responsible for torture, death or enforced disappearances are held accountable,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
“Pending such investigations, President Kiir should immediately suspend those credibly suspected of responsibility.”
These revelations come barely two months after Amnesty International released a briefing detailing the deliberate suffocation of more than 60 men and boys in shipping containers in Leer, Unity State in October 2015 and calling for an end to unlawful killings by the armed forces.