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Detainees revolt against being held without trial in South Sudan


A mutiny is occurring in the notorious prison in South Sudan called Blue House, where people are being detained without trial.  The prison is also where 2016 Tutu Fellow and peace activist, Peter Biar Ajak, has been held since the end of July 2018.  He has yet to be charged.  News sources say about 200 detainees broke into a weapons store in the prison and are holding two guards.  They are demanding the government provide prisoners with due process. 

The detention centre called Blue House is at the headquarters of the National Security Service in South Sudan's capital, Juba.  A national security service statement released to the media says the standoff began when a prisoner, Keribino Wol, overpowered a guard and seized his weapon. 

He told Reuters via a phone from inside the prison, “We’re fed up and we’re protesting systematic injustice and oppression. All political prisoners and detainees need to be released or given fair trial. The lack of trials is illegal.”

Prisoners say they do not want to fight.  Instead, they say, they want their voices to be heard.  The South Sudanese military and national security personnel have surrounded the prison.  Peter has said from inside the prison that safety is now relative and that it isn't clear what the outcome might be.  He is unarmed and taking shelter in an area of the prison known as the Blue House with other unarmed civilians.  The prison has that nickname because of it's blue-tinted windows.

Prisoners say they are fed up.  Most have been detained without trial for months, some years.  Most have never been given access to a lawyer.  South Sudan's government spokesman has been ducking comment.  Prisoners say the standoff was not premeditated but occurred spontaneously in response to months of threats and worse by prison personnel.  Government forces are reported to be shooting at the prison, but detainees have not fired back.

On 1 October, the spokesman for president of South Sudan said all political prisoners have been released.  The action in the detention centre is thought to be a reaction to that false claim. Reports from Juba conflict, with some saying the military has been empowered to kill political prisoners, while others are claiming the government is seeking a peaceful resolution to the mutiny.

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Thursday, 28 May 2020

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