Press briefing notes on South Sudan, Sudan and Afghanistan

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 11 December 2012
1) South Sudan
2) Sudan
3) Afghanistan

1) South Sudan

We are concerned about a number of physical attacks on human rights defenders and the killing of a journalist in South Sudan in recent months, which can also be seen as an assault on freedom of expression.

In the most recent attack, Diing Chan Awol, a local blogger and well-known political commentator in South Sudan was killed outside his home in the Juba suburb of Gudek on the morning of Wednesday 5 December. Local witnesses have asserted that the victim was shot after being lured out of his house by unidentified gunmen. According to his family, he had been receiving a number of threats including a clear ultimatum to stop writing or face the consequences.

We welcome the fact that the President has ordered the security services to conduct a “thorough investigation,” into the murder of Mr Diing Chan Awol, who was also known by his pen name, Isaiah Abraham. Yesterday during the Human Rights Day celebration in Juba, many speakers spoke about his killing and the Legal Advisor of the President read a statement on behalf of the President in which he mentioned the Government's determination to seek justice and accountability for crimes committed.

In addition to this tragic silencing of a prominent public commentator, during the past six months, there have also been similar attempts to intimidate local human rights activists belonging to the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, two members of which have been kidnapped and badly beaten by unidentified armed men.

One of the two men, Ring Bulabuk, a leading human rights and civil society activist, was kidnapped in October, and subjected to torture. Before his kidnap, the victim publicly criticized corruption practices by senior government officials.

We urge the Government of South Sudan to take remedial action and send a strong signal of its readiness to protect the safety of journalists and human rights defenders, as part of a wider effort to bolster support for freedom of expression in this young and fragile democracy.

In a separate incident, we are deeply concerned by the killing of 10 people in Wau, Western Bahr al Ghazal State, when the South Sudan army allegedly fired at protestors at the weekend. Six people were reportedly killed late on Saturday and another four on Sunday morning. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is investigating the incidents.

2) Sudan

We are also concerned about recent violent clashes between students and police in Khartoum, Sudan. On 10 December, hundreds of students continued to protest, for a third day, over the deaths of four Darfuri students belonging to El-Gezira University in Central Sudan. The students’ bodies were discovered in a canal near the university on 7 December. They had gone missing at the beginning of last week after taking part in a protest about plans to repeal a tuition fee exemption for Darfuri students.

We condemn the killings of the four students. While noting the announcement by the Sudanese Minister of Justice of a commission of inquiry, we stress the need for swift investigations into the circumstances surrounding the murders of the students and the importance of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

There is a worrying trend of attacks on students in Sudan. Back in July, in the most serious recent example, the police reportedly shot and killed at least eight people, mostly students aged 17 or under. More than 50 others were injured in the same incident, when the police opened fire at demonstrators in Nyala, in South Darfur.

The Government has said that its preliminary investigation absolved the police of any responsibility for the incident. Given the gravity of the incident, and the numbers killed and injured, we believe that a full, thorough and transparent investigation is essential.

3) Afghanistan

We are also appalled by the latest murder of a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Najia Seddiqi, the head of the Women’s Affairs Department in Laghman Province, was shot dead yesterday. She is the second female head of this department in Laghman to be killed in just four months, and we urge the Afghan authorities to leave no stone unturned in order to find her killers, in order to show that people who target women in Afghanistan will be brought to justice.


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 /

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