Freedom for Peter Biar Ajak
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Peter Biar Ajak was arrested in South Sudan on July 28, 2018. He is a youth advocate for peace and a friend and inspiration to many who know him around the world. He has been held without charge for more than six months at the notorious South Sudanese prison known as the ‘Blue House’ – and he hasn’t seen his wife, children, and lawyers for months. His friends at universities, human rights institutions, media organizations and others around the world are calling for his release. Just recently, Peter’s international human rights lawyer has petitioned the United Nations to take action.
The huge international outcry for Peter’s release has been noticed by key people in South Sudan’s government, especially President Salva Kiir. But more pressure is needed to show South Sudan government that the best option it has is to immediately release Peter – not just for Peter’s sake, but for the sake of South Sudan’s peace implementation.
Peter’s arrest comes amid a worrying trend in arbitrary detentions due to a crackdown on freedom of expression by the South Sudanese government. Amnesty International reports numerous recent arrests without charges. This goes against South Sudan’s constitution which states no one can be held without charge for more than 24 hours.
Peter was one of ‘the Lost Boys of South Sudan’. Displaced during the war when he was young, he lived in refugee camps before being taken to the United States by humanitarian charities. Once in the US he learnt English and studied hard, securing a place at La Salle University, then completed a masters at Harvard before studying for a PhD at Cambridge University in the UK. His inspirational story was recognised when he became an Atlantic Council Millennium Fellow and Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow. In June, Peter was awarded the Crans Montana Forum’s New Leader for Tomorrow Award by H. E. Moussa Traoré, former President of Mali.
Peter has always kept his focus on South Sudan and his hope for a peaceful future for his country. He has worked in think tanks, his national government and institutions working for development and peace. He has dedicated himself to creating opportunities for dialogue among South Sudanese youth, running wrestling tournaments across the country to bring young people together and to celebrate South Sudan's unique culture. He founded the South Sudan Young Leaders Forum (SSYLF) bringing together young leaders, both men and women, from across ethnicities and politics to encourage youth throughout the countryside to embrace peaceful dialogue.
Peter’s leadership was tested when prisoners took up armed protest on October 7, 2018, at the ‘Blue House’ were Peter is being held. The standoff was peacefully resolved because of Peter’s initiative to negotiate with the government officials and to convince the armed prisoners to surrender their guns, which saved a lot of lives.
Since Peter’s arrest, there has been amazing support from friends he has made around the world. His detention serves to highlight the systematic abuse and arbitrary detention of innocent people in South Sudan who do not have the same platforms, connections and international support as Peter.
Peter has a wife and two young children. We are asking for him to be released and allowed home to his family.
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