As the United States looks towards it’s own Secret Service for security shortcomings, international eyes are focused on South Sudan. South Sudan is expected to vote on the National Security Service Bill in just a few days. Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service has operated in South Sudan without a legal basis since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 . The bill that is proposed will effectively write the Security Service into law. The problem is that the bill is not in line with international human rights nor is it in line with South Sudan’s Bill of Rights. It also seems like the acts of the Security Service are not in line with international human rights standards either. Human Rights Watch reports that they have documented several incidents of human rights violations. The Security Service has allegedly arbitrarily detained people for their political views, some for days and without an opportunity to seek counsel. They have also allegedly detained journalist and shut down newspapers effectively increasing the censorship in the country. This is all bad but to then give the Security Service legal effect is worse.
The bill proposes a number of things: First, the bill will give the Security Service the same powers of arrest and detention as the police; Second, detention can be held anywhere and it does not guarantee basic due process rights; Third, they are given the powers of surveillance and search and seizure and are shielded from any criminal liability.
Many Sudanese and international human rights groups have called for a change in many aspects of Sudan’s proposed bill. The Security Service needs to operate with a legal mandate and it needs to be voted on sooner rather than later. However, the bill should focus on protecting the people and limiting the scope of the Security Service as opposed to extending its power and erasing its criminal liability. Not only would the Security Service be acting in a way contrary to international human rights standards but it would be backed by a legal mandate.
Is this a situation where the law can potential serve to help promote international human rights violations?
What can be done when the law does serve to promote international human rights violations?
South Sudan presents a very difficult situation. Human rights violations are amongst the most atrocious crimes, which the international community strives to prevent. The United Nations enacted a Charter after World War II to promote peace and foster relationships between countries, to ensure that the horrors of the two major wars would never occur again. The issue is that even though the countries have signed on to the Charter, its enforcement has proven to be challenging. The major issue is determining when international law can and should preempt domestic law. In matters of human rights violations, there is generally a consensus among the developed countries to intervene, even if the international law does not permit such intervention without an armed attack on the aiding countries. In my point of view, there are certain fundamental rights, which shall never be infringed, and when someone violates these rights other countries should be able to help. In this instance, the United Nations should intervene because there needs to be an agency to protect all people from human rights violations.
The Security Service bill is dangerous legislation which should attract attention from the international community. South Sudan has a long history of human rights abuses, yet is it a member of the United Nations, the African Union, and a signer of the Geneva Convention. Although I think this is an issue that should be left to the South Sudanese people to figure out on their own, that may be a naïve thought.
As a solution, I think that United Nations member states should get involved with investing in the country. South Sudan is one of the most underdeveloped countries in Africa and holds a lot of potential in regard to oil. UN member states should send resources and money to the South Sudanese government in return for legislation that is consistent and in accordance with proper human rights considerations. This way, South Sudan has an incentive to make sure that human rights violations are not being encouraged by legislation such as the Security Service Bill. Although it’s a long-shot in expecting member states to commit, it could be a viable option.