As South Sudan Celebrates One Year of Independence, Brutal Attack on Prominent Civil Society Activist Raises Serious Concern

Washington

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the recent abduction and beating of Mr. Deng Athuai, chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, which came only days prior to the country’s first anniversary of independence.

Mr. Athuai was abducted from the Nile Beach Hotel in Juba on the night of July 4 by five plain-clothed men and driven to an unknown location.  During his captivity, which lasted for two days, Mr. Athuai was severely beaten, deprived of food and repeatedly interrogated about the mandate of the Alliance and its vocal stance against corruption in the country.  On the evening of July 6, Mr. Athuai was able to escape his captors and find a police station at which point he was taken to Juba Teaching Hospital where he is currently receiving medical attention. Since the incident, additional Alliance board members have reportedly received threats.

“This brutal attack against an outspoken advocate for democratic governance is extremely disturbing, especially as South Sudan celebrates the first anniversary of its hard-earned independence, said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs at Freedom House. “Authorities should immediately ensure the safety and security of Mr. Athuai and his family and carry out a thorough and proper investigation on the circumstances around his abduction, harassment and maltreatment without delay.”

The South Sudan Civil Society Alliance is a national umbrella body established at the first South Sudan Civil Society Convention held in July 2011.  Mr. Athuai was elected chairman by his fellow members in January 2012.  Since its formation, the Alliance has been outspoken on a number of issues of concern for citizens in South Sudan, including the Addis Ababa talks on outstanding separation issues with Sudan, the permanent constitution-making process and the fight against corruption.  In June, the Alliance organized a demonstration at the National Assembly, urging the government to reveal the names of 75 government officials who reportedly received correspondence from President Salva Kiir encouraging the return of $4 billion in public funds that have been embezzled since 2005.

“The prospects for a democratic South Sudan depend on the emergence of effective checks on executive authority, including a robust civil society that is capable of holding its government to account,” continued Petrovic. “The government should make every effort to ensure the safety and security of all civil society activists in the country, even those that criticize government policies.”

For more information, visit:

Communique from the First South Sudan Civil Society Convention

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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