Fly540 Bombardier CRJ100 © Fly540
Five officials of the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority (SSCAA) and one representative of the Kenyan carrier Fly540 (5H, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) have been detained without trial in South Sudan since November 2018. In a statement dated July 30, Human Rights Watch urged the country's authorities to free them unconditionally, or else charge them promptly and release them on bail pending trial.
The National Security Service (NSS) arrested the six individuals at various times during November on fraud allegations, and "they remain detained unlawfully without authorisation by any judicial authority", the non-governmental organisation said.
The case relates to a dispute over payment of landing fees by Fly540, which the government said had not been paid. David Subek Dada, chief executive of the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority and a dual South Sudan-Australian national, was seized on November 8. Security officials subsequently summoned and arrested four other Civil Aviation Authority employees, Santino Payo, David Lado Laki, Simon Lokonga, and Jackline Ibrahim, as well as Fly540 employee Mercy Lalam.
Human Rights Watch said that information from lawyers and documents it had studied showed that the NSS concluded an investigation in December based on offences including cheating, criminal breach of trust, and forgery, transferring the detainees to the Juba Central Prison on January 12, 2019.
A public prosecutor recommended releasing Subek Dada on bail in December due to health concerns, as he is diabetic with high blood pressure and has not received adequate medical treatment. The detainees remain in prison without any confirmation of legal charges and have yet to be taken before a judge. Lawyers and family members have said that the authorities have not provided them with information on the status of the case. The NSS claims it has lost all the files relating to the case.
“There is nobody to speak to about the case,” a family member told Human Rights Watch. “Nobody wants to take responsibility. We try to talk to the Criminal Investigation Department, and they say go to the National Security Service. We go to NSS and they say go to the Public Prosecutor. We are very frustrated.”
The cases are part of a pattern of alleged unlawful detentions by national security and law enforcement authorities in South Sudan. The country's constitution provides that persons accused should be taken before a court within 24 hours of arrest, while pretrial detention should not exceed six months unless extended by court order. These laws are rarely adhered to, according to Human Rights Watch.
Fly540 was not immediately available for comment.
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