UN Police champion human rights for detainees, protection of SGBV survivors at UNDP-organised forum in Eastern Equatoria
United Nations Police (UNPOL) officers deployed in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, recently championed human rights reform, including rights protection for survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV), and detainees in overcrowded prison cells. They also called for stricter enforcement of COVID-19 preventative measures, especially during arrests and periods of detention.
According to Julius Muzigiti, UNPOL Police Adviser, delays by public prosecutors in releasing suspects from detention cells should not be an excuse for overcrowding in police cells. “Crime officers should assess the gravity of crimes and release minor crimes on bonds within the mandatory period of 48 hours. This will help manage numbers within the cells,” he advised.
“We understand that it can be dangerous to hand complainants arrest warrants directly because suspects might easily harm police officers in the process. These days another layer of risk has been added on while serving warrants and that’s the physical proximity required,” adds another Police Adviser, Gowella Illuminata. “To ensure safety for both suspects and police officers, we are recommending that warrants be served using the good offices of traditional leaders, community watchdog groups or community policing volunteers at a safe distance,” continues Police Adviser Illuminata.
Another major topic discussed at the event was the condition of sexual and gender-based violence survivors sheltered in the community safe house. Easy access to the premises by perpetrators means survivors always live in fear.
“The safe house needs support from all partners of the ministry. Although we have two social workers, there are no police personnel,” appealed Oburak Joseph, a representative of the Ministry of Gender in the defunct Torit state. “Perpetrators always come to threaten survivors. We need to protect survivors and workers.”
This rule of law forum, organized by the United Nations Development Programme, is held once a month to help solve human rights challenges in Eastern Equatoria. This month’s deliberations led to a positive response in the call for stronger protection of SGBV survivors in the area.
“We have agreed to deploy four male and female specialist police officers to the safe house,” assured Kasmiro Komos Gaetano, Deputy Police Commissioner.
The safe house, which was constructed by UNMISS, supports the mission’s mandate of monitoring and investigating human rights violations.