S. Sudan opposition rejects controversial security bill

The bill, approved by 165 out of 333 MPs, gives authorities the power to arrest without a judicial warrant

S. Sudan opposition rejects controversial security bill

World Bulletin/News Desk

A coalition of South Sudanese opposition parties has rejected a controversial national security bill passed by the National Legislative Assembly one week ago amid a walkout by opposition lawmakers.

"Some provisions of the act contravene the constitution, especially the bill of rights," Lam Akol of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), told reporters on Wednesday.

"The bill must conform to the mandate of the national security service as stipulated in Article 159 of the constitution," he said, flanked by 14 officials from other opposition parties.

The bill, approved by 165 out of 333 legislators, gives authorities the power to arrest without a judicial warrant.

It states: "Any person who is found committing any one of the offences against the state as provided under section five of this bill… may be arrested without a warrant by any officer and detained."

Article 159 of the interim constitution lays down the functions of the national security bill, stating that "it shall be subject to the authority of the constitution and the law; be subordinate to the civil authority; and respect the will of the people, the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms."

It also states that the country's security services "shall reflect the diversity of the people of South Sudan in its recruitment, and be professional."

It goes on to state that its mandate "shall focus on information gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant authorities."

Akol asserted that the bill gives "excessive powers to the [security] service" in a clear violation of this mandate.

"Members of the [security] service are granted immunity from criminal proceedings against them under section 52 of the bill," he added.

"Section 12 gives the service sweeping powers of search, seizure of property, arrest and detention, monitoring publications and broadcasting stations and so on," he noted.

Article 29, he warned, "gives the service powers to gather, retain and disseminate information related to any person without seeking approval from any oversight body, infringing on individuals' privacy."

"Section 50 states that a member of the service shall in the exercise of the powers under section 12, exercise all powers of the police," Akol went on. "In other words, the security service is usurping the powers of the police."

The opposition figure said that approval of such a contentious bill required consensus from society.

"All laws in all countries of the world derive their legitimacy from the national constitution, which is the supreme law of the land," he said.

"Such a sensitive act requires a reasonable degree of consensus among our people – and this is more so given the current crisis facing the country," Akol added.

However, he said, no such consensus had been reached.

"None of that was achieved. The official opposition walked out of parliament and members of the ruling party from the Equatoria region also walked out, and a good number absented themselves in protest," Akol asserted.

"The law was rammed through parliament and passed via procedures that contravene the conduct of business," he added.

Akol went on to say that political parties would coordinate with the public with a view to amending the controversial bill.

"Political parties will coordinate with other sections of society to ensure that we finally get a security bill that serves our people's interests," he vowed.

"We appeal to the president not to assent to the act and [call on him to] return it to the national legislative assembly for reconsideration," Akol concluded.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ekim 2014, 22:41

Muhammed Öylek