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UNMISS deeply concerned at spate of extra-judicial executions

Juba, 26 July 2021: The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is urging local and national authorities to put an end to extrajudicial executions following the killing of at least 42 people accused of criminal activity who were not given access to a fair trial.

Since March, UNMISS’ Human Rights Division has documented at least 14 incidents of extrajudicial killings in Warrap, resulting in the execution of 29 males, including boys and elderly men. The victims were allegedly removed from prison or police custody and brought before local officials for “sentencing”. Eyewitnesses reported that some men were taken to remote areas, tied to trees, and executed by firing squad. In some instances, their bodies were reportedly left on the trees as an example to the community.

It has also been reported that 13 people have been arbitrarily executed since mid-June at the instruction of state officials in Cueibet and Rumbek East counties in Lakes State.

“This spate of extrajudicial executions is deeply disturbing,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Nicholas Haysom. “People accused of crimes have the right to a fair trial as part of a formal judicial process. They should not be subjected to the random judgement of government or traditional leaders that they should be taken out and shot in front of their families and communities.”

UNMISS has raised concern directly with the Governor of Warrap and local officials in Lakes. The Mission has also asked the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the extrajudicial executions.  

UNMISS has been helping build the capacity of rule of law institutions across the country, providing technical assistance and facilitating the deployment of mobile courts. Some of these courts use a hybrid model with traditional leaders acting as assessors to advise statutory judges on local customs, particularly relating to compensation. A mobile court in Warrap and Western Bahr El Ghazal recently reviewed 1341 complaints involving 2085 alleged crimes.

The Mission is also liaising with the Chief Justice of South Sudan to support the deployment of more judges to the area.  

“There is a strong desire among communities for accountability and access to justice. But extrajudicial killings are not a solution to restoring law and order,” said Nicholas Haysom. “We must instead focus on building strong, well-developed local justice chains that resolve criminal cases in a fair and just manner.”

Contact: UNMISS Chief of Communication and Information, Francesca Mold at mold2@un.org or unmiss-spokesperson@un.org