UN: South Sudan hangs two inmates at prison in Juba

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN (BNO NEWS) -- Two prisoners have been executed by hanging at a prison in the capital of the newly-independent nation of South Sudan, the United Nations (UN) reported on Friday, adding that they may have been convicted without having proper legal assistance.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said during a news conference in Geneva that two men were hanged Tuesday in the Central Prison in Juba. "One of the issues there is that they did not have proper legal assistance," Colville said, without giving other details.

The executions in South Sudan follow a sudden wave of executions in other countries in recent days. Nine death row inmates were executed by firing squad in Gambia late last week after they were previously convicted of murder or treason, or both. Iraq then executed 21 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses on Monday and five more on Wednesday.

Colville voiced his concern about the executions in South Sudan as well as the executions in Iraq and Gambia. "We urge all States, who have not yet done so, to introduce - or reintroduce - an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty aiming to abolish it," he said, noting that 150 states have already abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium.

South Sudan became independent in July 2011 when it officially seceded from Sudan as a culmination of a six-year peace process which began in January 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The executions on Tuesday are believed to be the country's first this year. Five people convicted of murder were executed in 2011, four of them in November alone, and at least one other person was sentenced to death, according to an annual report from human rights group Amnesty International.

At least 150 people were known to be on death row in South Sudan as of early November, including 91 at the Central Prison in Juba, 32 at Wau Prison in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, and 27 at Malakal Prison in Upper Nile State. Amnesty International says trials in the country are often flawed, with many people being tried without legal representation even when the defendant does not understand Arabic.

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