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South Sudan - Universal Periodic Review - Death Penalty - July 2021

Date: July 15, 2021
Document: South Sudan Death Penalty Report
Country: South Sudan
Type: Intl Mechanism Submission
Issues: Death Penalty , Detention , Torture
Mechanism: Universal Periodic Review
Report Type: Stakeholder Report

This report addresses South Sudan's compliance with its human rights obligations with respect to its use of the death penalty. Although South Sudan accepted recommendations from the international community during its 2011 UPR to end the use of the death penalty, and despite consistent recommendations from various member nations to place a moratorium on the use of the death penalty or otherwise abolish it, South Sudan reportedly continues to sentence persons to death and to carry out executions. South Sudan is counted among the twenty countries that are responsible for all known executions worldwide. South Sudan is among four Sub-Saharan countries that carried out executions in 2018 and 2019, South Sudan's Bill of Rights, a part of the 2011 Transitional Constitution, remains in effect today and still prohibits the execution of persons under the age of eighteen or over the age of seventy years and women who are pregnant or lactating for up to two years. Relatedly, pursuant to the Penal Code of 2008, courts are prohibited from passing a death sentence on any person "in the opinion of the Court" is younger than sixteen-years-old, or older than seventy. The Bill of Rights provides that the death penalty should only be imposed for "extremely serious offenses in accordance with the law." Although South Sudan abstained from the December 12, 2020 resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, the South Sudanese government has made conflicting statements about the status of the country's use of the death penalty. Moreover, although South Sudan's Constitution contains various rights and protections for its citizens such as affording defendant the right to have legal aid assigned to them by the government "in any serious offense" in the event they cannot afford a lawyer, most individuals sentenced to death were not represented by counsel and there have been reports of individuals sentenced to death despite being under the age of eighteen at the time of the commission of their crime. Additionally, the lack of formal judicial infrastructure throughout South Sudan has led to many criminal cases being brought before customary courts that are supposed to be subordinate and answerable to the formal, statutory courts. It might be presumed that the death penalty is administered more frequently in the customary courts, which "apply an ad hoc mixture of customary principles and compensation, and statutory (or even international) legal codes and penalties." Further, there is a general concern regarding the lack of information from the government of South Sudan that is available to properly evaluate the issues regarding the country's use of the death penalty.