In the January 2011 referendum, the Sudanese people voted decisively to establish South Sudan as an independent state. The Republic of South Sudan (RoSS), which celebrated its independence on July 9th, faces enormous challenges heightened by its legacy of prolonged civil war and severe underdevelopment.
Fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and armed opposition groups since January has killed hundreds of civilians, led to the displacement of more than 10,000 people, and the destruction of homes and other civilian properties. The Southern Sudan Police Service (SSPS) remains under-equipped, ill-trained, largely illiterate, and insufficiently deployed, leaving the SPLA to fill much of the policing void. In this role many soldiers commit further violations against civilians, including unlawful killings, beatings, and looting.
During Sudan's April 2010 elections, southern Sudanese security forces harassed, arrested, and detained people thought to be opposed to the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), including journalists and opposition members. Amnesty International continued to document these abuses in 2011.
The law enforcement and justice systems in Sudan are weak due to the shortage of qualified staff and the reliance on customary law, resulting in impunity for crimes and serious human rights violations in the administration of justice. These violations include arbitrary arrests and detentions, lack of legal assistance and aid, prolonged periods of pre-trial detention, and poor conditions of detention. Children are often tried as adults, detained with adults, and denied access to educational opportunities while imprisoned. Additionally, many mentally ill people are detained without lawful justification, and are denied sufficient medical services while in prison.
Since January 2007, authorities in Southern Sudan have executed at least 12 people, and scores remain on death row, including juveniles. Weaknesses in South Sudan's criminal justice system can and do lead to breaches in international human rights law, including the right to a fair trial; the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment; and the right to life.
Although many of South Sudan's statutory laws contain protections for women and girls, the government is rarely able to enforce them. Women and girls are routinely deprived of the right to choose a spouse or to own and inherit property, and they are subjected to practices such as forced and early marriage, wife-inheritance, and the use of girls to pay debts, and various forms of domestic violence. Over 80 percent of women and girls are illiterate, and many have little knowledge of their rights under the law and limited access to justice.
Amnesty International urges the government of the Republic of South Sudan to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by taking action in the following areas as a matter of priority: