Write for Rights victory! Magai removed from death row in South Sudan

“Thank you so much. I have no words. You have no idea how my heart is filled with happiness.” – Magai Matiop Ngong 

We campaign. We write. We advocate. And news like this is what we work for: 18-year-old Magai Matiop Ngong has been removed from South Sudan’s death row! 

Before his life changed forever, Magai was a 15-year-old high school student. He loved running and singing, and had ambitions to be the president of South Sudan so that he could help people when he grew up.  

But his dreams came to a sudden end in 2017 when he was convicted of murder. Magai’s cousin had argued with a neighbour. When the neighbour got a gun, Magai did too. Magai fired warning shots into the ground, but one of the shots ricocheted and injured Magai’s cousin who later died. Magai faced trial without a lawyer and told the judge that he was only 15 and tried to explain that the killing was an accident. But the judge sentenced him to death by hanging. “The feeling is not good at all,” said Magai. “To be informed that you are going to die, I am not happy for that…” 

During Amnesty’s Write for Rights 2019, human rights supporters from around the world sent 765,000 messages to President Salva Kiir, urging him to commute the sentence. The appeals reminded him that, according to South Sudanese and international law, sentencing a child to death is illegal.

Amnesty International welcomed the Court of Appeals’ decision on July 14th to quash Magai’s death sentence. Magai expressed his thanks to the thousands of Amnesty activists who supported him: “To Amnesty, tell them that I am so happy and grateful for what they have done to me and my family… I’m so blissful and blessed to have them as a support for my life and freedom.” 

Within South Sudan, the campaign to save Magai’s life contributed to wider discussion about the government’s use of the death penalty, especially against children. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as it violates the fundamental human rights to life, to security of person and to freedom from cruel, degrading treatment. May the decision in Magai’s case pave the way toward abolition of the death penalty in South Sudan.  

Thank you truly to everyone who took action in solidarity with Magai!  

You can read more Write for Rights 2019 case updates here.