By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan has executed at least seven people in February alone, death toll that Amnesty International describes as ‘shocked.’
The human rights advocacy group says this is as many as those who were executed in the whole of 2018 and represents a shocking spike in the use of the death penalty in the country.
Seif Magango, deputy director for the Amnesty International for East Africa, says “this confirms our fears that South Sudan authorities have absolutely no respect for the right to life as it continues to totally disregard the fact that the world is moving away from use of the death penalty.”
The Amnesty warned that at the end of last year South Sudan had executed in that year more people than in any other year since her independence in 2011.
The Amnesty International says executions in 2018 followed the transfer of at least 135 death row prisoners from county and state prisons to Wau central prison and Juba central prison respectively, which are equipped with gallows to carry out executions.
“We are shocked and dismayed that executions have become the order of the day in South Sudan,” said Magango in the press statement, seen by the Pan African Visions. “Rather than execute people, the authorities should rehabilitate prisoners and make them well-adjusted individuals that can contribute positively to society,” he added.
The penal code of South Sudan allows for the use of the death penalty for bearing false witness resulting in an innocent person’s execution, terrorism or banditry, insurgency or sabotage resulting in death, aggravated drug trafficking and treason. President Kiir has imposed an indefinite moratorium on death sentences.
South Sudan government has confirmed the executions but says they still using old penal code that allows for the use of the death penalty.
In the press statement unveiled that six of this year’s victims were executed in Juba central prison, while at least one was executed in Wau central prison. All the victims were men.
“These reports are extremely concerning, and we cannot even begin to image how the families must be feeling,” said Magango. South Sudan must immediately commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment, establish an official moratorium on executions and take steps, without delay, to abolish the death penalty.”
However, the human rights advocacy group has established that at least three of executions undertaken last month were shrouded in secrecy – the family of the three related men were not informed of the impending execution and only learnt to the death of their loved ones after they had been executed.
All the victims were men. Three of the deceased were from the same family from former Bor County in Jonglei State. The executers have been on death row for more than seven (7) years in prisons in South Sudan.
The observers said South Sudan government must refrain from this senseless execution, and induce imprisonment as an option.
More so, the Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime; stressing that the premediated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice – is the most fundamental denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.