UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan: As the deadline to form the Government of National Unity rapidly approaches, much still remains to be done

JUBA (7 February 2020) Members of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan began their eighth field mission to South Sudan earlier this week. The mission, currently underway, is taking place from 3 to 9 February 2020.

In Juba and Bentiu, the Commissioners met with internally displaced persons, community leaders, and civil society organizations, including women’s organizations. They also met with Government officials, including key ministers, diplomats, UN agencies, and UNMISS staff including the Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

Commissioners also met with the Revitalized Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), representatives of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-opposition (SPLA-IO), and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) to discuss the current security and human rights situations in the country.

Since our visit to South Sudan last August, there has been a marked increase in incidents of armed and localized conflict, particularly in Yei and Maiwut, said Commission Chair, Yasmin Sooka. Beyond armed conflict, the lack of progress on cantonment and deplorable conditions at cantonment sites, and forced recruitment including of children may all be directly tied to a lack of good faith shown by signatories to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement, she continued.

The Commission also noted that the National Security Service was harassing, threatening, and intimidating activists and civil society representatives. In many cases, National Security Service officers arbitrarily cancelled civic events, including those addressing sexual and gender-based violence, education, the rule of law, the hybrid court, and other Chapter V mechanisms. The Commission noted how such actions constrained activists, journalists, human rights defenders, political dissidents, and ordinary citizens from expressing their views publicly or organizing themselves.

We were concerned to learn that women from civil society are being followed by National Security Service officers to their homes and approached for no apparent reason other than to threaten, intimidate, and harass them, said Commissioner Andrew Clapham. Attempts to silence these segments of society continue to have an adverse impact on citizens who are only trying to discuss issues related the Revitalized Peace Agreement which concern their futures, he noted. The Commission moreover expressed its concern at the limited progress made on the establishment of the hybrid court, the commission for truth, reconciliation and healing, and the compensation and reparation authority.

Issues of accountability remained extremely important to the South Sudanese women and men with whom we spoke, though the Government continues to prioritize healing and reconciliation over accountability. All three elements of transitional justice are needed and mutually reinforcing, and should be equally prioritised, said Commission member Barney Afako. Sustainable peace in South Sudan requires that Chapter V mechanisms of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, including the hybrid court, be established, he added.

The Commission called upon the parties to resolve the outstanding issues emanating from the Revitalized Peace Agreement including the number of States and their boundaries without further delay.

The Commissioners held a press conference on Friday, 7 February 2020, at 15:30 hrs in the UNMISS Tomping Base in Juba.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to, among other things; 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 will present its fourth mandate report on the human rights situation in South Sudan to the Human Rights Council in March 2020.

Source: UN Human Rights Council