Interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
18 March 2022
49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council
28 February- 1st April 2022
Item - Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
By Buba Ceesay/ GICJ
The Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (UNCHRSS) during its 49th regular session. This event was held on the occasion of the 34th meeting of the 49th session of the Council. The Commission submitted its sixth report on the human rights situation in the country and flagged up the main human rights issues that continue to plague South Sudan. The report documents discussed, inter alia, the diminished civil space in South Sudan, continued arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, economic crimes and the dire humanitarian situation in the country.
Concerning political and security developments in the country, the report pinpointed the delay in completing security sector reform, the lack of concession between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM-IG) and the Sudan People's Movement/Armed Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) on senior officer appointment ratios, and the violence and instability resulting from the political competition between the different political groups as factors affecting peaceful coexistence in South Sudan. Regarding the narrowing of civil space, the report stated that legitimate participation in civil activities was hampered by repression by an overzealous security force and by the Bank of South Sudan's 6 October 2021 banking directive to all South Sudanese banks to freeze the bank accounts of those perceived to be affiliated with the People's Coalition for Civil Action. The report further indicates that arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and death threats have become rampant in South Sudan. It highlights the gruesome pattern and number of people killed in retaliation for alleged cattle rustlers and elucidates how sexual and gender-based violence continues to be used in South Sudan as a weapon of terror and political repression. It also describes the preavelence of rapes and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls in South Sudan's conflicts with near-total impunity. Furthermore, the report acknowledges the progress made, albeit at an alarmingly slow pace, noting the rare judgment of a military court in Yei County that convicted a military officer for raping a civilian woman. As for economic crimes, the commission’s report details that a significant portion of the national income has been, and continues to be, unlawfully diverted by government officials with the help of members of the political elite and their international accomplices. It outlines the dire humanitarian situation in the country with a high percentage of the population currently in need of humanitarian assistance.
Presenting the report to the Council, the Commission's Chairperson, Ms Yasmin Sooka, highlighted the fundamental challenge facing South Sudan's transitional justice process, which includes the lack of political commitment to implementing key components of the Revitalized Agreement, while fearing that the country's planned elections could potentially plunge it into massive violence. She also drew attention to the continuing conflict in some states and its attendant humanitarian consequences, the widespread conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls, and the lack of accountability of perpetrators involved in sexual violence. Mr Andrew Clapham, a member of the Commission, read the commission’s recommendations to the Council whilst Barney Afako, another member, noted that the prevailing impunity for serious crimes in South Sudan fuelled and compounded conflict and insecurity.
In concluding the Commission’s presentation, Ms Sooka noted that the transitional timeline has reached a critical stage, but political, humanitarian and human rights crises persist in the country.
On behalf of the concerned country, the minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development of South Sudan, Mr Ruben Madol Arol, underscored the efforts taken by the government of South Sudan to address these issues. He highlighted progress made in the country by pinpointing achievements of the institution of the Revitalized Government of National Unity both at the national and local level, the drafting of a bill for the enactment of the constitution, and the resolving of the conflict in Tumbura, Western Equatoria State by the Join Defence Board. He further noted that the constraint the government of South Sudan faces in the implementation of the revitalized agreement is the lack of support by the international community in the form of technical and capacity building.
In the ensuing discussions, speakers commended the commission for highlighting the use of gender-based violence in the country and called for its mandate to be renewed. The speakers expressed concern and reiterated calls for an end to gender-based violence. Calls were also made for the guarantee of freedom of expression and assembly, holding perpetrators accountable for violence against journalists and humanitarian workers, and for holding a credible and transparent election. Concerns were raised about the slow pace of implementing the revitalized agreement. However, South Sudan was commended for the steps taken and its intention to establish the hybrid court.
Other speakers commended South Sudan for its cooperation with the Council and called on the international community to provide constructive technical and humanitarian support to South Sudan while respecting its sovereignty.
Geneva International Centre for Justice commends the commission for its report and express concern over the prevailing sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, the lack of political will to implement in full all the commitments in the revitalised agreement,and the continuing localised conflict. GICJ commends South Sudan for the steps taken to ensure the implementation of the transitional justice programmes and urges it to intensify its efforts and respect the participation of women, civil societies and media. It further calls on South Sudan to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly, press freedom and bring to book all those found wanting for violations of human rights.
The UNCHRSS was established by the Human Rights Council on the 23rd of March 2016 by resolution A/HRC/RES/31/20 with a mandate to, inter alia, determine and report the facts and circumstances of, collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for, alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence and ethnic violence, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability. The Commission’s mandate has been further extended on an annual basis. Its current term was extended by the Council on the 23rd March 2021 by resolution A/HRC/RES/46/23 wherein the Council also requested the Commission to present its report and recommendations to the Human Rights Council and to share them with the African Union and all relevant organs of the United Nations, including the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
Pursuant to said resolution 46/23, the Commission presented its report during the 34th meeting of the 49th Regular Session of the Council. During this meeting, various speakers made presentations on the human rights and humanitarian situation in South Sudan. The main speakers included Ms Yasmin Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission, Mr Andrew Clapham, and Barney Afako, members of the Commission, all of whom highlighted the human rights situation confronting South Sudan. The Commission called for the implementation of the revitalised agreement and increased assistance to survivors of sexual violence in South Sudan.
Summary of the report of the commission
The Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/49/78), dated 15 February 2022, details the facts and circumstances of human rights incidents that occurred between January to December 2021. It, however, is not a reflection of the entirety of the human rights situation in South Sudan but a thematic human rights issue and case study of subnational conflict. The thematic human rights issues focused on by the report include: political and security developments, a shrinking civic space and the ongoing repression of civil society, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, the current humanitarian situation, economic crimes, subnational conflict, and transitional justice.
Political and Security Developments
The report notes that the Revitalized Agreement, which raised the hopes of the South Sudanese people for a long-delayed peace, continues to face implementation hurdles. Leaders in South Sudan have failed to manage diversity and reach a political compromise, with the parties to the agreement fiercely opposing each other and fuelling localised conflicts. President Salva Kiir Mayardit's SPLM-IG is reportedly the dominant political force in South Sudan due to its control over the country’s security and oil resources, whilst the National Salvation Front, and other armed groups outside the agreement, continue to facilitate the insurgency. The integration of the military and the unification of command structures appears to have stalled and the cantonment exercise has also failed as SPLM/A-IO troops, most of whom participated in the exercise, lacked food, water and sanitation facilities.
In December, The Transitional National Legislative Assembly passed a bill incorporating the Revitalized Agreement into the transitional constitution. The first forum of state governors was also held in November 2021 and state assemblies were also appointed.
Additionally, the report reveals that a deadly clash took place between SPLM/A- IO forces and the Kitgwang faction in Upper Nile between August and December 2021, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced in Magenis and Thor Gwang. It goes on to say that the violence and instability in Upper Nile is the result of political competition and the failure to address the concerns of the Shilluk minority, and that violence will continue if their historical grievance, namely the dispossession of their ancestral lands in Upper Nile, is not addressed. In Tambura, political elites are accused of practicing ethnic politics and fomenting violence between the Azande and Balanda communities. The report cites the President's promise to return to peace talks during clashes between the SPLM and the NAS in Western, Central and Eastern Equatoria, but notes that no further agreements have been reached after the Declaration of Principles signed in March 2021. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union are reportedly paying less attention to the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement due to the conflict in Ethiopia and Sudan. Furthermore, it emphasises that the government has not achieved the main objectives, benchmarks and reforms envisaged in the Revitalised Agreement, including genuine power sharing and transparency and probity in the management of the oil economy.
A Shrinking Civic Space and the Ongoing Repression of Civil Society
On the issue of shrinking civic space, the report notes that legitimate participation in civic activities is seriously hampered by state repression in the form of harassment, arbitrary arrests, detentions, extrajudicial killings and deliberate widespread internet outages. The People's Coalition for Civil Action's planned public meeting scheduled for 30 August 2021 was cancelled due to state intimidation tactics. Numerous people associated with the People's Coalition were arrested and detained by the National Security Service (NSS). Four months later, a sick detainee remained in detention without any charge against him. Some members of the People's Coalition went into exile after death threats were made against them. The Commission emphasised that the state reportedly does not slacken its efforts to track down those who have gone into exile.
Furthermore, the South Sudan Government issued a banking directive through the bank of South Sudan on 6 October 2021 to all South Sudanese banks ordering the freezing of accounts of people perceived to be affiliated with the People’s Coalition, with the sole object of crippling the organisation. The report concludes this issue by underscoring that the broader patterns documented by the Commission, severely undermine prospects for credible elections and public participation in the transitional justice and constitution-making processes envisaged in the Revitalized Agreement.
Arbitrary Detention and Enforced Disappearance
The Commission uncovered numerous cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, inhumane detention conditions and torture. Its report documented the case of a man arrested for criticising the government on Facebook and his subsequent detention at the NSS "blue house" in Juba. An artist was also arrested and detained for publishing a song about low salaries for civil servants and the limitations of public service. Another person went into hiding after death threats from the NSS ruined his education and livelihood. One community leader was detained incommunicado on several occasions to force him to renounce his role in a civil society group in favour of an active NSS official. On enforced disappearances, the Commission noted that four officials were arrested and detained by the NSS because they were perceived to be sources of information on government corruption for civil societies.
Several extrajudicial executions in South Sudan were documented by the Commission. The bulk of these executions took place in Lakes and Warrap States. Regarding the executions in Warrap State, the Commission observed that they began after General Aleu Ayieny Aleu took on the role of Governor. One man who was in police custody for murder was executed by Governor Aleu's bodyguards at his behest after he visited the area on 28 March 2021. Similarly, five detained men in connection with an ambush were executed by the same Governor's bodyguards following his visit to Pagol Payam on 11 April 2021.
Moreover, the Commission had recorded cases of unlawful killings in the Lakes states, beginning after General Rin Tueny Mabor, former head of Military Intelligence of the South Sudan People's Defence Forces, became governor. The report cites UNMISS' reporting of the extrajudicial killing of 14 people under the governor's command in July 2021. The Commission further stated that extrajudicial killings in the above-mentioned states have not abated until November 2021 but have been legitimised as a response to inter-communal violence and cattle rustling.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
The Commission's report details the deeply disturbing pervasiveness of sexual violence in South Sudan. Sexual violence by armed men continues to be perpetrated against women and girls. Parties to the ongoing conflict persist in using sexual violence as a weapon of terror and political repression. Sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan manifests itself in various forms, including rape, murder, torture, brutalization, looting and the destruction of property. Violence against women and girls has left numerous survivors with severe psychological and physical scars. The consequences are not only experienced by the victims but also their family members and relatives who have witnessed the rape of their wives, sisters and mothers. The report outlines the plight of civilians who have fled the conflict in Tambura and who were psychologically traumatised by the violence they have witnessed.
In addition, the comission documented cases of persistent sexual violence in Central Equatoria, during military operations, while the prevalence of sexual violence in Equatoria and Upper Nile has been attributed to fracturing alliances. Forced marriages, abductions and sexual slavery have increased during the escalation of intercommunal clashes in Jonglei, Pibor Administrative Area, Warrap and the Lakes Region.
The report underlines that, due to the deeply patriarchal nature of South Sudanese society, violence and abuse against women and girls continues to be treated with impunity. The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Peter Mayen Majondit, disrupted a football game by storming the pitch and dragging away his wife, Aluel Garang, a prominent women's football player, with shots heard around his entourage. He had also battered and stabbed his wife in August 2021 and was not held accountable for the gender-based violence she suffered.
However, the Commission's report notes the progress South Sudan has made in combating sexual and gender-based violence. The report states that a military court in Yei County convicted a South Sudan People's Defence Forces soldier in late 2020 for rape and sexual violence against a civilian woman, among other crimes. In January 2021,the South Sudan Joint Defence Commission, adopted an action plan for the armed forces on combating conflict-related sexual violence. Nonetheless, the Commission urges monitoring and evaluation of initiatives, including juvenile and sexual violence courts, mobile courts and others, to determine whether they are ensuring access to justice and whether there is political will for accountability in South Sudan.
The report characterises the humanitarian situation in South Sudan as a human rights crisis of epic proportions. In 2021, more than 8.3 million people, or 70 % of the population, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, of which more than half are children. Another 1.4 million people are malnourished and over 7 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. In addition, flooding and heavy rains have affected more than 835,000 people. The unusual patterns of weather are linked to the global climate crisis, and South Sudan has been particularly affected by these events. The Covid-19 pandemic further weakened the country's fragile health system. An estimated 3 million South Sudanese are internally displaced or living as refugees. Subnational conflicts within 9 of the 10 states have exacerbated the IDP situation. Forced displacement is altering the ethnic demography and adversely affecting land and housing rights.
Insecurity, armed clashes, threats of violence, road ambushes, looting of warehouses and bureaucratic bottlenecks have affected humanitarian workers, four of whom were killed in 2021 alone. Whilst the dire humanitarian situation persists, the Commission's report faults the government of South Sudan for its failure to invest in services and support those in need as well as its lack of action to redirect government spending and resources to essential services and infrastructure.
On the issue of economic crimes, the report notes that a significant portion of the revenue obtained from oil reserves, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, continues to be embezzled by government officials with the aid of political elites and international accomplices. These economic crimes have not been addressed by the political leadership of South Sudan, thereby depriving the government of the resources necessary to fulfil its human rights obligations.The Commission, thus, called for political commitment to increase transparency and improve the monitoring and management of oil resources.
The report notes that the militarisation of Central Equatoria continues and that the main actors involved are the South Sudan People's Defence Forces and NAS. Both are responsible for human rights violations in Central Equatoria. SSDF members are alleged to have perpetrated sexual violence, forced labour, and widespread looting of food, agricultural products, livestock and property in Yei, Laniya and Juba counties. The report suggests the involvement of the NAS in the 17 September 2021 attack on a convoy carrying World Food Programme aid and killing the driver.
Furthermore, between May and October 2021, a high incidence of human rights violations were documented in Tambura, Western Equatoria, resulting from rising violent conflict in the region. The violence, which began as a confrontation between the SSDF and the SPLM/A-IO, has escalated into an ethnic confrontation between the Balanda and Azande. In April 2021, hundreds of people, mainly Balanda residents, were displaced in South Yubo and the report attributes the violent attacks on several villages in May to the Azande or other armed groups.
The report furnishes detailed evidence of the violence perpetrated against civilians. A Balanda man was violently killed by Azande youths using a machete. Members of the militia group killed a Balanda family, including children aged 7 and 10, and one Balanda doctor was assassinated by SSDF soldiers, who were allegedly paid for the job. Some Azande were also killed for having relations with Balanda. The Commission also documented rapes of Balanda women and girls, mainly by groups of Azande men with weapons such as guns or machetes. Child recruitment was also common as boys were given weapons and girls were exploited as slaves and forced to perform a range of gender-stereotyped tasks.
On the heels of many high-level interventions by the state, the violence subsided by the end of October 2021 when the Joint Defence Board held talks with the main parties to the conflict. The Commission noted that the violence in Tambura cannot simply be ascribed to the appointment of a Balanda as governor of the state, even though this has certainly presented a reason to mobilise along ethnic lines. The Tambura conflict must be viewed in the broader context of domestic politics and the historical contest between the SPLM/A-IO and forces allied to the government, which resulted in numerous atrocities.
In a related localised conflict, the reports chronicle the human rights and humanitarian situation associated with the conflict in Tonj North and Tonj East counties. The Tonj North conflict, which began in 2020, has displaced over 25,000 people and has resulted in the killing of 27 people in mid-February 2021. The violence led to multiple human rights violations, including looting and rapes at gunpoint. In July, armed men from the Luanyjang community vandalised a clinic and ransacked a UN aid warehouse. Clashes that followed displaced thousands and left at least 25 people dead.
Similarly, there was widespread violence in Tonj East, where armed inter-community clashes led to the deaths of around 40 people and the blockage of some settlements, hampering the operations of humanitarian workers. The report suggests that NSS Director-General Akol Koor Kuc bears responsibility for fuelling the violence in North and East Tonj through his facilitation of military-grade arms and ammunition into the area.
The report provides an update on the implementation of transitional justice processes in South Sudan. The Council of Ministers has adopted a resolution aimed at implementing Chapter V of the Revitalised Agreement and the Ministry of Justice has established a technical working group for transitional justice. President Kiir affirmed the commitment of the government to establish a Truth, Reconciliation and Healing Commission in January 2022. The Commission applauded the government's initiatives but expressed concern that unless Chapter V, which includes the establishment of a Hybrid Court and a Compensation and Reparations Authority, is fully implemented and an enabling environment and necessary funds are in place, the government's action will be both selective and contrary to the spirit and vision of Chapter V.
The report also notes that the Commission in December held a second conference on transitional justice, in collaboration with UNMISS and OHCHR, entitled "Conference on Sustaining Momentum for Transitional Justice in South Sudan". The conference brought together key state and non-state actors and stakeholders. It reached several resolutions, and the government representatives pledged their commitment to implementing the resolutions in collaboration with civil society and regional, international and development partners within six months. The Conference also stressed the need for clarity and communication between the African Union and the government regarding their respective roles in the setup of the hybrid court, and the Minister of Justice has reaffirmed their commitment to finding common ground on the Hybrid Court.
The report concluded that South Sudan's transition is faltering owing to a lack of genuine political will to implement the Revitalized Agreement and to address the underlying causes of the conflict. A repressive and politically intolerant environment, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and extrajudicial killings continue to constrain civic space in South Sudan. Sub-national conflicts in Tambura, North Tonj and East Tonj reflect the national-level political contestation for power and territory and have a deep ethnic dimension. The Central Equatoria situation demonstrates the government's inability to police and regulate the conduct of its soldiers. Competition for political power and resources by elites has resulted in the large-scale theft of the nation's oil and non-oil tax revenues. Impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence, including those related to the conflict, is widespread. Progress made by the government in implementing the transitional justice measures set out in Chapter V of the Revitalized Agreement has been slow and requires significant impetus.
The Commission has thus recommended, among other things, that South Sudan ensures efficient functionality, cooperation and leadership within the government to address the root causes of the conflict, to better manage the country's ethnic diversity and fully implement the provisions of the Revitalized Agreement. It was also recommended that the process of adopting the Memorandum of Understanding with AU for the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan be finalised alongside the development of a roadmap for the implementation of Chapter V of the Revitalized Agreement. The Commission further recommends the government establish a Committee to address impunity for conflict-related sexual violence, including members of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, UN Women, UNMIS, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, and experts on sexual violence in South Sudan. Moreover, the report called for the creation of an interim reparation programme to address the immediate needs of victims and survivors.
Interactive dialogue with the commission
Presentation of the Commission’s Report
Geneva 18 March 2022, the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, Ms Yasmin Sooka, presented the Commission's report to the Human Rights Council at the 34th and 35th meetings of the 49th session. In her presentation, she underscored that South Sudan is at a critical stage of transition, with crucial provisions of the revitalised peace agreement largely unimplemented and planned elections potentially plunging the country into mass violence. Ms Sooka highlighted the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in the country, which has left an estimated 2.3 million people as refugees, 8.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 483,000 women malnourished and 809,000 people affected by heavy rains and flooding. The Chairperson raised concerns about the repression faced by civil society and stated that human rights activists, humanitarian aid workers and journalists routinely face threats, arbitrary detention and harassment from the government. She discussed a notable incident of repression in which the NSS shut down a peace conference organised by opposition members of parliament, detained journalists covering the event and confiscated their materials. Ms Sooka further highlighted that some civil society members were forced into exile and their bank accounts were frozen by the government.
She further informed the Council that the Commission has documented the violent conflict in Tambura, Warrap and Jonglei, in the Greater Pibor area and in Bentiu, which seriously impacts civilians in these areas, due to the conflict taking on the dimensions of collective punishment of communities. Attacks against villages have resulted in mass killings and the enforced displacement of civilians along ethnic lines. Continued violent attacks on aid workers have led to the suspension of numerous aid operations, depriving communities of access to necessities. She underlined that conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, as well as the pillaging of villages, are commonplace and are mostly based on ethnic lines. Ms Sooka noted that in Tambura, an ethnically-fuelled conflict between two government factions, resulted in rapes, machete killings, abductions and the displacement of thousands of people. She bemoaned that sexual violence in South Sudan has been instrumentalised as a reward and an incentive for the participation of youth in the conflict. The Chairpersonrecounted horrific scenes of rape, gang rape, sexual torture, sexual slavery and the coercion of relatives to witness the rape and abuse of their loved ones. She noted that the decades long absence of accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in the country has been responsible for the permissive conditions in which rape and sexual violence in conflict are perpetrated.
Following the Chairperson's presentation, Commission member, Mr Barney Afako read out some of the Commission's recommendations contained in the report. He stated that the signatories to the agreement will have to demonstrate visionary leadership and renewed determination to complete the implementation of their transition commitments. They should also fulfill key political and legal obligations, including conflict resolution, national cohesion and political compromise. Among the recommendations discussed was the need for the government to enhance South Sudan’s capacity to collect and preserve evidence, to urgently implement the measures identified by the Commission's December 2021 conference, as well as to provide the necessary resources for the consultation process and the preparation and enactment of legislation for the establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation and Healing Commission.
Mr Andrew Clapham, another member of the Commission, remarked that although a bill has been prepared, the process of developing a permanent constitution remains slow. The legal, institutional, security and logistical arrangements, which are essential for the constitution-making and election processes, are still not established. He noted that the human rights of members of civil society, women and members of groups that have little say in public life must be respected and protected. Furthermore, he reiterated that the prevailing impunity in South Sudan is the root cause of the massacres, rapes, plundering of the country's wealth and other grave human rights violations.
Ms Sooka closed the Committee's representation by stating that South Sudan has reached a critical point in its transitional timetable and yet massive political, humanitarian and human rights crises linger, mainly due to entrenched contestation among political elites and the lack of political will to address impunity. She emphasised that unless the Revitalized Agreement is fully implemented with the support and engagement of the African Union, the United Nations, regional and international partners and the guarantors of the peace process, the aspirations of the people of South Sudan for lasting peace will remain unfulfilled.
The Intervention by the Country Concerned
The Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development of South Sudan, Ruben Madol Arol, spoke on behalf of South Sudan. He outlined to the Council some achievements made by the Government of South Sudan in improving human rights in the country. He informed the Council that the Revitalised Government of National Unity institutions at national, state and county levels had been reconstituted, including the Transitional National Legislature and the state assemblies. He also indicated that South Sudan remained committed to the Revitalised Agreement and had made positive progress. Mr Arol highlighted that the Joint Defence Board had received funding from the government to deploy an assessment team to training centres to select ex-combatants to graduate and be deployed in the unified national army, a process he said is significant for the unification of the national army. He further stressed that the cessation of firing in South Sudan continues, notwithstanding the doubts expressed by others, including the Commission. He asserted that the Tambura conflict was now resolved.
Mr Arol additionally stated that a ministerial task force has been set up by the Ministry of Justice and is working on the establishment of a Compensation and Reparations Authority and that a constitution-making bill has been drafted. He concluded that South Sudan continues to face a lack of support from the international community in the form of technical assistance and capacity building, particularly for rule of law institutions, based on needs identified by the government. He therefore appealed to the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the necessary tools in the form of technical assistance and capacity building to enable the government to provide services to its citizens.
Interventions of Delegations
In the ensuing debate, speakers praised the commission for its report and its documentation of sexual violence in South Sudan. Speakers expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence and called for an end to it. Many delegates called for the fulfilment of the quota for women's representation. The EU representative, speaking during the interactive dialogue, raised serious concerns about continued human rights violations and abuses, including rape, displacement, sexual violence and the slow implementation of the peace agreement, and asked the commission what steps the government of South Sudan can take to stop these human rights violations by the national security forces.
Speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, the representative of Norway recognised the progress made by the Government of South Sudan but noted that it fell short of expectations. He raised concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly and asked in what way the work of the Commission could contribute best to the establishment of the Reconciliation and Healing Commission and the hybrid court.
The representative of Saudi Arabia speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council stressed that South Sudan is currently suffering from many problems and difficult living conditions and therefore urged the provisioning of necessary support to the country.
The United States also reiterated its concern about the prolonged human rights crisis in South Sudan and appealed for the renewal of the commission's mandates. Similar calls for the extension of the commission's mandate were made by the United Kingdom.
The delegate of Libya applauded South Sudan for its cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms and efforts to reduce violence in the country. Accordingly, the delegate appealed to the international community to provide technical and humanitarian support to South Sudan.
UN Women also expressed concern about conflict-related sexual violence and made an appeal for an immediate end to such violence. It also called for the implementation of the 35% quota in the peace agreement for women's participation in the peace process.
Both Malawi and Cameroon expressed commendation for South Sudan's actions but renewed calls for South Sudan to continue to cooperate with all stakeholders, including IGAD and the African Union and to accelerate the implementation of the transitional justice mechanism.
Other speakers, including Venezuela, China and Sri Lanka, praised South Sudan for the protection of human rights and the progress made so far and advocated for more technical and constructive support to help promote the political transition process. There were concerns about the politicisation of human rights mechanisms. The Chinese delegate argued that the Council should respect the South Sudanese request and terminate the mandate of the Commission, as it did not obtain the consent from the country concerned.
Interventions of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Groups
Non-governmental organisations and civil society groups welcomed the important work of the commission and called for the renewal of its mandate, as it is the only mechanism to date that records and preserves evidence of violations. The cooperation of the government of South Sudan in this process was appreciated. The importance of the revitalized agreement as a key to resolving the crisis and human rights violations was stressed. Concerns about violence and human rights violations in South Sudan were raised and calls for an end to such issues were made. Finally, the need to establish key institutions for the completion of the transition process was reiterated.
In his closing remarks, Mr Barney Afako likened the Revitalised Agreement to a bridge and stressed that each chapter of the agreement is a key pillar and, unless these elements are implemented, there can be no credible transition. Commissioner Andrew Clapham thanked the government of South Sudan for its cooperation and indicated that they are following with interest the establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation and Healing Commission and are available to offer technical assistance. Ms Yasmine Sooka closed the meeting by saying that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence have written to the Council pleading not to be abandoned. She urged the Council to read the Commission's conference room paper which documents the testimonies of survivors of sexual violence in South Sudan.
Position of the Geneva International Centre for Justice
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) strongly commends the commission for its report. We are deeply concerned by incidents of conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan. Reports of widespread and systematic violations of women's and girls' rights are chilling realities that should engage the conscience of all and provoke unanimous international condemnation and calls for its cessation. The localized conflict in South Sudan must end immediately. The violent incidents in Tambura, Western Equatoria and other places are deeply disturbing, and we strongly urge the government and the international communities to work together to ensure a lasting peace in South Sudan. We appeal for the full implementation of all transitional justice mechanisms in South Sudan and urge the country's political elites to demonstrate political will, embrace diversity and work together to bring an end to the suffering of the people of South Sudan, who have endured violence and severe humanitarian and human rights abuses. The appalling number of internally displaced people is a very serious concern for us, and we are appealing for the implementation of temporary measures to ensure that the rights of the displaced are respected.
The constriction of civil space is seriously troubling. Targeting civil societies for their activities is indeed a very bad sign for the South Sudanese political transition. Open debate and discourse are essential cornerstones of a just and peaceful society. The government of South Sudan must be prepared to listen to the voices of its citizens and ensure that the transitional justice programme is an inclusive process.
Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions must end. Democracy and peace thrive where citizens are free to speak out without fear of retaliation from the government. South Sudan’s NSS is notorious for perpetuating human rights abuses, and we urge the government to immediately act against security agents who violate the rights of the most vulnerable.
Violent attacks on humanitarian workers must cease. The South Sudanese government must stop these attacks and hold those responsible to account. Accountability is crucial in national healing. South Sudan must not allow impunity to flourish as it will lead to retaliatory attacks and fundamentally disrupt the peacebuilding process in the country. We therefore call for more transparent and impartial accountability and urge the commission to continue documenting and preserving evidence for future accountability measures.
The economic wealth of South Sudan must be used to alleviate the suffering of South Sudanese people and to fulfill their fundamental human rights, including the right to education and health. However, we are saddened by reports of public officials misappropriating public funds for selfish private gain, while the population is left to suffer from hunger, poverty and malnutrition. GICJ nevertheless acknowledges the steps taken by South Sudan towards the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement and recommends the government further intensify its efforts and implement all key elements of the agreement.
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