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JUBA - 30 Jul 2019

Government is detaining six airport officials - report

South Sudanese authorities are detaining six airport officials without trial since November 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Human Rights Watch stated in a report extended to Radio Tamazuj that the National Security Service (NSS) arrested the six individuals at various times in November on fraud allegations.

The international rights group said the six officials remain detained unlawfully without authorization by any judicial authority, pointing out that the cases are part of a pattern of unlawful detentions by national security and law enforcement authorities in South Sudan.

The group revealed that security agents arrested David Subek Dada, chief executive officer of the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority and a dual South Sudan-Australian national in his 50s, on November 8 on accusations of fraud.

It noted that the case relates to a dispute over payment of landing fees by the Kenyan airline, Fly540, which the government says has not paid the required fees. Human Rights Watch pointed out that security officials subsequently summoned and arrested four other staff members of the Civil Aviation Authority – Santino Payo, David Lado Laki, Simon Lokonga, and Jackline Ibrahim – and an employee of the airline Fly540, Mercy Lalam, later in November.

"These cases exemplify how South Sudan's government fails to respect the basic rights of accused people," said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"South Sudan's authorities need to respect due process protections in national and international law and should immediately release these six airport officials and if they intend to charge them, do so promptly," she added.

Human Rights Watch said it has reviewed documents that show the National Security Service concluded an investigation in December based on offenses including cheating, criminal breach of trust, and forgery and then transferred the detainees to the Juba Central Prison on January 12, 2019.

“A public prosecutor recommended releasing one of the detainees, Subek Dada, on bail in December due to health concerns. Subek is diabetic and has high blood pressure but has not received adequate medical treatment,” the report said.

Under South Sudan's laws, all detainees – whether arrested by the police or the security services – are accorded basic rights. The constitution provides that the person should be taken before a court within 24 hours of arrest. South Sudan's criminal laws say pretrial detention should not exceed six months, unless extended by a court order.

The International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which South Sudan is party, allows pretrial detention only as an exception and says that it should be as short as possible and that defendants should be tried without undue delay.