Statement on the Opening of Parliament and Freedom of Expression and Assembly

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The Embassies of the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway, the European Union, France, Germany, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Sweden congratulate the Government of the Republic of South Sudan on the inauguration of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States on 30 August. This is an important step on the pathway to a constitution and democratic elections.

The TNLA is an essential forum for open debate and discussion, where MPs should be able to freely express their views on behalf of the people of South Sudan. The TNLA will also have to play an important role in the constitution-making process. Given the importance of the constitution, it is vital that this process is inclusive and reflective of the many diverse voices within the country. A credible and inclusive constitution process, reflecting the will of all South Sudanese, will be critical to the peace process and successful elections.

In Parliament, as in South Sudanese society at large, freedom of expression and assembly must be protected. These are universal rights, enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. We were grateful for the explicit reassurances provided by the Government of South Sudan in their statement of 25 July 2021 which stated that the “Government of the Republic of South Sudan upholds freedom of speech and press to its core.”

However, the recent actions taken by the Government, including threats to use live ammunition against peaceful protestors, harassment of journalists and media organisations, arrests of civil society representatives and the intimidation of South Sudanese citizens, are not compatible with the Government’s stated commitments.

We urge the Government to uphold the commitments it has made to its people through R-ARCSS. This includes protecting the rights of citizens of South Sudan to express their views in a peaceful manner, without fear of arrest. We will continue to support the Government to implement R-ARCSS, and welcome the progress that has been made towards that end.

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