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South Sudan Urged by Rights Groups to Abolish Death Penalty

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Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- South Sudan should abolish the death penalty, urged a coalition of rights groups that said most of the country’s 200 death-row inmates receive no legal counsel.

The groups, including London-based Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch of the U.S. and the South Sudan Law Society, called on the country to vote in December on a United Nations resolution to ban the death penalty, according to a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Nhial Deng received by e-mail today.

“President Salva Kiir Mayardit should immediately declare an official moratorium on executions, and the government should urgently address the continuing shortcomings in the country’s administration of justice,” Audrey Gaughran, Africa director at Amnesty International, said in the letter.

South Sudan will review death-penalty legislation as part of the process of writing a new constitution for the East African nation, which declared independence from Sudan in July 2011, government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in a phone interview yesterday from the capital, Juba.

Separately, Hilde Johnson, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative to the country, said she met with Kiir yesterday after South Sudan’s government expelled a human-rights worker with the UN peacekeeping mission.

‘No Truth’

The unidentified official was ordered to leave last month because “there was no truth in most of the reports she was making about South Sudan,” Benjamin said.

Army spokesman Kella Kueth said the UN official was expelled in connection with “nonsense” allegations about abuses of civilians by soldiers carrying out a disarmament program in South Sudan’s eastern Jonglei state.

At least one person died, 27 people were tortured or ill-treated, 12 were raped and eight were abducted from July 15 to Aug. 20 in Jonglei, the UN mission said in an Aug. 24 statement. Groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said their researchers documented similar abuses.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jared Ferrie in Juba at jferrie1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net

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