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UN Rights Body Should Renew Investigative Mechanism In South Sudan

HRW Statement – Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

Madam President,

We welcome the report/s by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and their outstanding work at this critical time in the country.

While largescale fighting in South Sudan has declined, and steps to move ahead with the formation of a government of national unity ongoing, giving South Sudanese some renewed optimism, this is not the time for the Council to shift its approach on South Sudan.

The prevailing human rights and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The UN has recorded a significant uptake in civilian casualties and violence reaching 2013 levels.

Civic space is rapidly shrinking.  The National Security Service- an agency which has become the government’s preferred tool of repression- targets critics and perceived dissidents with arrest, detention, torture and enforced disappearance-forcing activists and broader population to self-censor.

Sporadic fighting and abuses, including abductions for sexual violence and forced recruitment, persist in parts of the Equatorias, committed by non-signatory rebel groups and the government.

Intercommunal fighting in Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes and Northern Bahr el Ghazal has resulted in unlawful killings, the displacement of thousands, sexual violence and the destruction of civilian property.

 The reports of the Commission show evidence of continuing violations including recruitment and use of child soldiers, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and targeted attacks against civilians including by community defence groups.

While the government has recently announced a new approval for establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan to try past and ongoing serious crimes, impunity remains the norm, and the key will be whether this approval translates into concrete progress toward the court’s operationalization.

Clearly, the Unity government has yet to ensure protection of civilians and greatly needed justice for the countless victims of abuses.

We regret the introduction of a second initiative on South Sudan seeking to put an end to the work of the Commission and urge the Council to once again adopt a consensus resolution renewing its mandate in full. This is essential to maintain needed scrutiny of abuses and lay the groundwork for future criminal accountability through the collection and preservation of evidence and determining responsibility for the crimes.

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