Amnesty International denounces, in a report published on Tuesday 2 February, the establishment by the authorities in South Sudan of a vast surveillance system. The NGO believes that the National Security Service (NSS) of South Sudan “Uses abusive surveillance to terrorize those who criticize the authorities, creating a climate of intense fear and self-censorship.”
“An Israeli company provided the necessary technology”
In a two-year investigation, 63 people – including South Sudanese activists, journalists and lawyers – detailed the role played by telecommunications and surveillance companies in allowing phone calls to be intercepted without legal guarantees. . The report states “That an Israeli company, Verint Systems Ltd., provided the Sudanese government with means of intercepting communications at least between 2015 and 2017, despite the high risk that these means could contribute to human rights violations.”
A former employee of the telecommunications company MTN South Sudan told Amnesty International that the NSS in 2013 via an Israeli company, had installed a “Box” in his business. The installation of “Boxes” could be the means used by authorities, including the NSS, to gain direct access to data from service providers.
“Uncontrolled and illegal surveillance exercised by the NSS”
« The uncontrolled and illegal surveillance carried out by the NSS has a chilling effect on civil society and peaceful activism. The threat of surveillance is a weapon in itself – people critical of the government and human rights defenders have told us that they live in constant fear of being spied on »Declared from Nairobi, Deprose Muchena, program director at Amnesty International.
The NSS deploys agents across South Sudan and neighboring countries, infiltrating all levels of society and into daily life. It is mandatory to obtain permission from the NSS to organize public events. Intelligence agents have infiltrated NGOs, the media, private security companies and hotels. “The breadth and reach of the NSS spy ring creates an environment that encroaches on freedom of opinion and expression and on privacy” Amnesty International concludes.
Since its independence in July 2011, freedom of expression has been severely restricted in South Sudan. The country is considered by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Sudan to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
The international community “expects tangible and authentic results”
International pressure remains strong for the country to evolve towards the rule of law. On Monday February 1, the United Nations Human Rights Commission on South Sudan welcomed the decision taken by Juba to approve the creation of an African Union (AU) Hybrid Court, enshrined in the 2018 updated peace accord to try war crimes committed during more than six years of conflict.
Commission President Yasmin Sooka said: “After more than two years of delay, the government has finally taken the first steps to launch the main transitional justice measures to address the serious human rights violations committed in South Sudan”. She adds that while the South Sudanese government wants to keep “Any credibility”, investigators are now waiting “Tangible and authentic results”.