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Renew Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Most Recent Report Documents Ongoing Abuses, Lack of Justice

Women from more than forty South Sudanese womens organizations carry placards during a march through the city to express the frustration and suffering that women and children face in Juba, South Sudan on December 9, 2017.   © STEFANIE GLINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations Human Rights Council should keep pressure on South Sudan to address ongoing rights abuses and the need for accountability.

Next Monday, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan will brief the council on its most recent report which documents continuing human rights abuses and impunity for widespread atrocities committed in the country’s conflict, despite the 2018 peace agreement and formation of a unity government.

The commission concluded in its report that serious crimes continue to be committed, including forced recruitment of children for armed conflict and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as the crime of intentional starvation of the civilian population as a weapon of war. These serious and ongoing crimes and others such as abductions of women and girls warrant the council’s continued scrutiny through the work of the commission, whose current mandate expires this month.

The council should renew the mandate of the commission during its session, which runs until March 20, so it can continue documenting abuses and supporting justice for the crimes.

The once promising proposal to hold perpetrators to account in a Hybrid Court for South Sudan has yet to materialize. Although the parties agreed to create the court in partnership with the African Union as part of their agreements to end the conflict, the commission finds that “little progress” was made last year to get the court up and running.

Human Rights Watch meetings in South Sudan and Ethiopia in August and September 2019 underscored a lack of communication or plan by South Sudanese authorities to support the court’s formation. The AU Commission has made repeated attempts to prompt progress with South Sudanese authorities on the court to no avail.

The South Sudan commission has a mandate to document abuses and collect, preserve, and analyze evidence with a view to contributing to effective trials for the crimes down the road. The ongoing work of the commission is critical given lack of progress on prosecuting abusers and continued rights violations.

Victims deserve justice for the widespread atrocities committed during South Sudan’s civil conflict, including to contribute to a durable peace in the country. Renewing the mandate of the commission is the best opportunity at present for laying the foundations for justice in the future.

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