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Ex-governor Victor Atem wanted for alleged extrajudicial killings

Author: Memo Lasuba | Published: Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Victor Atem Atem, former governor of the defunct Gogrial state | File photo

Some aggrieved families in Warrap State have asked the national government to help arrest the former governor of the defunct Gogrial over extrajudicial killing accusations.

In August 2020, the public prosecutor in Warrap State issued warrant of arrest against Victor Atem Atem for the alleged murders three years ago.

According to some of the complainants, ex-governor Atem ordered for the killing of 35 individuals he had assumed of perpetrating inter-communal violence in the area.

They say the executions took place after President Salva Kiir declared a three-month state of emergence in Gogrial state and parts of Tonj, Wau and Aweil East on July 17, 2017.

By then the region was rocked by inter-communal violence.

Akon Akot, one of those complainants, says three of his sons – Agoth Akon, Akech Diing and Angui Mayot – were among the young men Atem had killed.

“My sons were killed by former governor of Gogrial state, for reasons that were not clear,” Akot told Eye Radio in Juba.

“Three of them were just kidnapped and taken to a toch (island) where they were shot dead. They were not buried.”

In a letter dated August 19, 2020, and addressed to the police, the Warrap State public prosecutor, Akot Makur Wengtok, issued a warrant of arrest against Victor Atem Atem and two others.

According to the order, ex-governor Atem and his co-accused Mayar Deng and Achook Yai have been charged with murder and should appear before Kwajok police investigator, John Akot.

But since then, none of them has been arrested.

Complainant Akot explains that they have been referred to Juba to follow up the matter with the authorities there.

However, he claims the concerned authorities are too reluctant to respond.

“The IGP and the minister of interior, Paul Mayom Akec, have refused; they are protecting Atem. We are then asking: where is the justice?” Akot asks.

Asked why it took them long to raise the matter, he says they feared for their lives, because the governor was too powerful.

Thiap Diing is another complainant. He told Eye Radio that five of his sons were shot dead following an order by the then governor Victor Atem:

“My last message is to request the government of his Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardiit – because Atem always claimed the order [for the killings] came from above – we are asking those who are protecting him to allow him to appear before a court to explain himself,” Diing stressed.

When contacted for a comment, the police spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Daniel Justin said he was not aware of the order.

Lack of justice in South Sudan has emboldened those carrying out abuses, and Human Rights Watch finds strong support among activists, lawyers, and victims for prosecuting crimes committed during the current conflict.

In addition, Amnesty International says the South Sudanese authorities have allowed impunity to flourish over serious human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since brutal conflict broke out in December 2013.

It argues that authorities typically deny credible reports implicating the armed forces in serious human rights violations.

And when the President does respond by setting up investigation committees, they lack independence and impartiality and, with the one exception, do not result in criminal trials.

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