JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan accused the country’s National Security Service of threatening media and civil society and undermining prospects for a democratic transition.
A new report — based on the U.N. commission’s independent investigations in 2023 — was released on Thursday and gave details about attacks on journalists and members of civil society, both within and outside the country.
Journalists have been subjected to surveillance, intimidation and human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, according to the U.N. report.
“Independent media and a vibrant civil society represent critical voices in developing accountable governance, and the democratic processes required to enable peace and ensure human rights,” said Yasmin Sooka, the chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
South Sudan is going through a political transition period after a civil war that wracked the country from 2013 until 2018, when a peace agreement was signed by President Salva Kiir and his rival turned Vice President Riek Machar.
An election has been scheduled for December 2024.
The U.N. commission’s report details violations to the human rights of political reporter Woja Emmanuel, who in May 2023 announced on social media that he had quit journalism, saying he feared for his life.
South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, on Friday dismissed the report as “cut and paste.”
“The reports are very clear, and all the time they are systemic. If you follow them closely, you will find that there is nothing new, but it is that report of last year that they cut and paste without any changes,” Makuei told journalists in Juba.
The U.N. commission is concerned about the intolerance toward critics of the government before the election.
“South Sudan still lacks an umpire to review and curtail the repression of human rights, and to resolve disputes that may arise through electoral processes,” commission member Carlos Castresana Fernández said.
Fernández said the government was taking too long to establish transitional justice institutions, terming its delays as “politically calculated strategies to maintain the supremacy of ruling elites.”
The report also urged South Sudan’s government to urgently cease unlawful media censorship and to end restrictions on civic and political activities.