South Sudan Passed Security Bill Without Quorum!

Updated at 3:50am, Oct 9, 2014(PST)

Assembly

25% of South Sudan Members of Parliament have passed the National Security Service bills that gives excessive powers to security forces(Photo: SSLA)

Oct 9, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan’s legislative assembly passed a security bill that has been protested nationally and internationally on Wednesday 8th, 2014.

The bill grands National Security Services(NSS) sweeping powers to surveillance, wiretap, arrest, detain and infringe privacy without any legal authorization.

Following a series of cautions from Amnesty International, Canada, and American concern groups for South Sudan parliament to scrutinize the bill before passing it, majority of South Sudan’s lawmakers failed to attend the parliamentary session.

The parliament which usually consists of 332 members  or 309 after the conflict was attended by only 87 members of which 3 MPs walked out of the session in protest to rubber stamp the bill. The remaining 25%, despite lacking the quorum, passed the bill.

The major concerns are that the bills gives excessive powers to protect the leaders more than the vulnerable populations. Among the excessive powers are the following:

  • Monitor frequencies, wireless systems, publications, broadcasting stations and postal service to prevent misuse by the users.
  • Under take necessary search and investigation for disclosure of any situation, facts, activities or factors.
  • Provide opinion, consultation, and services to in respect of security and intelligence to national organs.
  • Seize property connected with an offense
  • Excessive powers of arrest, detention, search and seizure.

The bill face major criticisms such as that it lacks provisions for accountability for the members of National Security Service and also that it fails to provide guarantees required under international human rights law.

In countries with viable democratic systems the national security and law enforcements are required to obtain, in writing, the Information to Obtain (ITO) a search warrant from a court of law to search places that are considered private.

Notwithstanding that South Sudan has limited provision for charter of rights, the bill will overshadow the media bill that was recently enacted into law and further overrides elements of the transitional constitution.

According to Henry Odowar, an MP from Eastern Equatoria State, who eventually walked out of the parliament, some MPs requested 72 hours to scrutinize the bill further, however, their request was declined.

Majority of the MPs from Greater Equatoria, Greater Upper Nile and opposition parties declined to show up for the session. Despite that the MPs from Greater Equatoria boycotted the bill, Tulio Odongi Ayaho, the SPLM-Juba chief whip voted in favor of the bill.

It is yet to be verified if the absent majority could have influenced the decision by voting against it, however, the Speaker of parliament, Hon. Manasseh Magok Rundial, was satisfied with the obtained votes.

Related stories:

South Sudan: Parliament Must Reject New Security Bill with Excessive Powers

South Sudan: National Security Service Bill – 2014

Canada: Ottawa Article 44 on South Sudan