PRESS STATEMENT ON THE NATIONAL SECURITY SERVICE ACT: POLITICAL PARTIES OF SOUTH SUDAN

South Sudan Political Parties attaining work shop in Juba 2012 (File photo/Nyamilepedia)

South Sudan Political Parties attaining work shop in Juba 2012 (File photo/Nyamilepedia)

Oct, 17th, 2014 (Nyamilepedia) -The National Legislative Assembly passed on Wednesday, the 8th instant, the controversial National Security Service Bill.

The Bill had been referred to the relevant committees for scrutiny after many members expressed concerns regarding certain provisions that give the security agents immunity as well as wide ranging powers of detention and arrest without warrant.
The Bill also defines and imposes penalties not in conformity with the Penal Code.

That day, the law was rushed into parliament and passed through procedures that contravene Article 28 of the Conduct of Business Regulations of the National Legislative Assembly. Informed sources in the Assembly add that the sitting in which the bill was passed was inquorate.

All laws in all countries of the world derive their legitimacy from the national constitution which is the supreme law of the land. The relevant provision here is Article 159 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, which stipulates:

The National Security Service shall:

(a) be subject to the authority of the Constitution and the law;
(b) be subordinate to the civilian authority;
(c) respect the will of the people, the rule of law, democracy, human
rights and fundamental freedoms;
(d) reflect the diversity of the people of South Sudan in its
recruitment; and
(e) be professional and its mandate shall focus on information
gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant authorities.

Indeed, the Bill has acknowledged that its legitimacy derives from this constitutional provision by incorporating it verbatim as Section 6 of the Bill.

In clear contravention of this mandate, the Bill provided for excessive powers for the service. A few examples will suffice to illustrate the point we are making.Members of the service are granted immunity from initiation of criminal proceedings against them under section 52 of the Bill. Section 12 gives the service sweeping powers of search (d); seizing property (e); arrest and detention (f); and monitoring publications, broadcasting stations,etc. (o). Article 29 gives the service power to “gather, retain and disseminate information related to any person…” without seeking approval from any oversight body infringing on the privacy of individuals. Section 50 (2) states that a member of the service shall in the exercise of the powers under Section 12 “exercise all powers of the police”. In other words, the security service is usurping powers of the police.

Chapter VIII of the Bill which deals with offenses, contraventions and punishments is unnecessary as it gives new definitions of crimes and punishments thereof not in conformity with the Penal Code.

Nothing in the Bill deals with ensuring that its recruitment reflects the diversity of the people of South Sudan. In fact, Section 30 on the eligibility for recruitment does not even specify what academic requirements are required opening the door wide for abuse.

We appeal to the President of the Republic not to assent to the Act and return it to the National Legislative Assemble for reconsideration for the following reasons:

• Some provisions of the Act contravene the Constitution, especially, the Bill of Rights;
• Such a sensitive Act requires a reasonable degree of consensus among our people. This is the more so under the current crisis facing the country. None of that was achieved as the official opposition walked out of parliament. Other members from the ruling party from Equatorial region also walked out and a good number absented themselves in protest;
• The quorum of the sitting in which the Bill was passed is questionable and hence its legality is in doubt;
• The Bill must conform to the mandate of the National Security Service stipulated in Article 159 of the Constitution.
The political parties shall coordinate with other sections of our society to ensure that we finally get a security bill that serves the supreme interests of our people.

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