An Israeli lawmaker is pushing a lawsuit seeking to block transfer of spy equipment from Israel to South Sudan after it emerged that Juba uses Israeli surveillance technology to track down political dissidents and journalists.
The petition was filed by Tamar Zandberg, a member of the Israeli parliament who has also spoken out about Israeli arms transfers to South Sudan government, which fought a devastating civil war against rebel groups for over 20 months.
“Surveillance is one of the mechanisms being used in that civil war,” Zandberg was quoted saying, adding: “This is part of the war crimes and part of the crimes against humanity being used.”
The lawmaker’s lawyer, Eitay Mack, however, said that Israel’s support to the South Sudanese National Security Service (NSS) is not limited to hardware and software.
“The South Sudanese don’t have the technicality and the professional personnel to operate the [surveillance] systems, so as far as I know there are Israelis actually on the ground in Juba and are operating the system by themselves,” he said.
Last year, a United Nations panel of experts said the South Sudanese army used Israeli weapons to fight its civil war.
According to the UN report, evidence showed the South Sudanese military using the Ace, an advanced version of an assault rifle reportedly produced by Israel Weapon Industries and that its security forces used the Ace, in its battle against local rebels.
A previous UN report had accused the two warring sides in the South Sudanese conflict of committing human rights violations, mainly in the oil-rich Unity state of the country.
Data on Israeli arms sales to Africa reportedly increased dramatically in the years after South Sudan’s independence. In 2009, Israeli media reported the country sold just $71 million worth of weapons to the continent. In 2013, that number is said to have more than tripled to $223 million, and it reportedly reached $318 million last year.
Tens of thousands of people were killed and nearly two million displaced during the South Sudan’s civil war, which began in mid-December 2013, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, now the country’s first vice-president.