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By David Lony Majak - 8 Jan 2024

Opinion | Need for justice in Unity State over unjust killings

Human rights defenders in Unity State cannot celebrate a happy new year as they reflect on the sorrowful and unjust killing of four men through the implementation of jungle laws in the region. I urge the government to consider 2022-2023 as deadly years marked by human rights abuses, executions by firing squad, orchestrated disappearances of targeted groups, intimidation of human rights defenders, arrests of journalists, and the tragic killing of Gatluak Majiok along with three other men by a firing squad.

Unanswered questions persist: Who carried out the executions? Who sanctioned the jungle laws of murder? Is the governor of Unity State acting contrary to the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan? Is he above the law? Have judgments been handed down the by firing squad under his leadership? How many lives have silently disappeared? I call for thorough investigations into the killing of Gatluak Majiok and the other three young men brutally murdered in August 2022.

Over a year has passed since the incident, and I implore the international community, human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and regional human rights defenders to investigate the circumstances surrounding the illegal powers granted to Dr. Nguen Monytuil and his security personnel. They carried out the killings by firing squad without allowing the accused or defenders to be brought before a court of law, whether civil or military, depending on the department of the accused.

A handicapped Gatluak Majiok and the other men were ruthlessly killed after enduring beatings and torture. Gatluak, despite being handicapped in both hands and legs, bravely looked his killers in their eyes, a group authorized by the government of Unity State. I call on the government to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes, ensuring they face trial in a court of law to establish their innocence or guilt in the act of killing the four men by firing squad.

However, many cases of disappearances, wrongful arrests, and threats to the lives of watchdog groups have been reported. The Unity State government has been fostering relentless crimes since April 2014 during the conflict, resulting in deliberate loss of innocent lives, targeting civilians based on ethnic identities, looting properties, and causing the disappearance, arrest, and humiliation of humanitarian aid workers. Rights groups must unite to advocate for justice for Gatluak Majiok and the three other young men who were killed in cold blood. Justice must prevail in South Sudan.

The four men were falsely accused without proper confirmations or legal proceedings following their arrest in the northern part of Unity State. They were mistakenly implicated in the killing of the late former commissioner of Mayom County from Unity State. The South Sudan government must initiate an investigation into the murders of its citizens where due procedures were neglected. The killing of former Commissioner Chuol Gatluak Meme also demands thorough scrutiny by the South Sudan government and its potential partners.

It is the duty of the Unity State governor and his leadership to transparently address these allegations. The ongoing human rights violations are a crime observed by both the government and the international community for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice. Military officers involved must be detained and subjected to military justice, while political leaders of the Unity State government implicated in the crimes should be tried in civil courts if found guilty of their roles in the killings of the four handicapped men.

The absence of investigations and court trials, and the fact that they were not taken to jail but rather arrested and killed in the bush without due process, constitutes a grave crime. This can be considered a severe human rights atrocity committed during President Kiir’s leadership, surpassing any acceptable standards for taking lives.

The decision to hastily execute the four men without communication with the central government or adherence to legal procedures raises questions about what influenced the governor and his leadership. If their intention was to apprehend them as soldiers, there is a military court of justice at the South Sudan People Defense Forces’ military headquarters in Juba. They should have been taken there for military hearings and legal trials. However, Gatluak and the other deceased individuals were executed by firing squad while not in military uniform, undermining the government of Unity State’s claim that they were soldiers captured on the frontline.

David Lony Majak is the Executive Director of Goodhearted Orphans and Disabled Organization and a commentator on street children and a human rights activist. He can be reached via email:

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.