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To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council

Re: Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for two years


Ahead of the UN Human Rights Coun­cil’s (“HRC” or “Coun­­cil”) 52nd session (27 Feb­­ruary-4 April 2023), we, the undersigned non-governmental orga­nisa­tions, write to urge your delegation to sup­port a two-year extension of the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (here­after “Commission” or “CHRSS”) in full.

The CHRSS is the only mechanism tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of vio­la­tions of in­ter­­­na­tional humanitarian and human rights law with a view to ensuring accountability and ad­dres­sing human rights issues in South Sudan from a holistic perspective. Its work remains vital as the conditions that prompted the HRC to establish the Commission, in 2016, have not significantly changed to warrant less scrutiny. In fact, reports by the CHRSS and other independent actors do not indicate that the con­ditions on the ground have significantly improved, thereby underlining the importance of keeping the CHRSS and extending its mandate for at least two years.

Last year, parties to the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agree­ment on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Repu­blic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) agreed to extend the country’s transitional period by 24 months. The transitional period is now due to end in February 2025.

This agreement, as well as the HRC’s consideration of an upcoming report by the CHRSS, occurs at a critical time, as violence and impunity remain per­va­sive in the country, uncertainty over the constitution-making and elec­toral pro­cess is high, and South Sudanese civil society faces intensifying repression. Through its public monitoring and reporting mandate, the CHRSS can also play a crucial role in pre­ven­ting further atrocity crimes during this period.

                                                                           *   *   *

In 2022, the Council adopted two resolutions on South Sudan. The first one extended the mandate of the CHRSS, whereas the second focused on technical assistance and capacity-building. We stress that all elements of the CH­RSS’s mandate should be preserved. A mandate renewal, as in HRC resolution 49/2, does not pre­clu­de, but rather enables, the provision of advisory services to South Sudan. A purely tech­nical assis­tance and capacity-building focus would be unsui­ta­ble to tackle South Sudan’s continuing se­rious human rights issues, including ensuring perpetrators of con­flict-related and other vio­lations and abuses, including crimes under international law, are held to account. The South Sudanese authorities’ failure to address these is grounded in the government’s lack of political will, not solely a lack of capa­city, and as such, is not adequately resolved by technical assistance and capacity-building.

Since the onset of the conflict in 2013, justice remains elusive for the victims and survivors. The con­­tinuation of the CHRSS’s mandate is the best means to safeguard prospects for future account­ability, including through the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), whose establishment continues to be para­lysed at the time of writing.

The factors that prompted the Council to establish the CHRSS in 2016 have not changed. Until there is meaningful and genuine change, there is no reason for the Council to lift its scrutiny. The Council’s scru­tiny, through the Commission’s man­date, should at the very least cover the entirety of the transi­tio­nal period, after which an assessment should be made again whether the conditions that prompted the Commission’s establishment have sufficiently changed.

Progress on key human rights issues of concern has not been reported by the CHRSS, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), or other inde­pen­dent actors. If anything, 2022 witnessed an increase in violence and risk factors of further atrocities. In its update to the HRC, on 5 October 2022, the OHCHR stressed that it remained concerned by the “continued high levels of localised violence and the increase of conflict-related sexual violence.” The CHRSS warned that the international com­mu­nity needs to “urgently […] pay more attention to the esca­lating violence proliferating at a local level all over South Sudan,” including sexual violence and the use of rape and gang rape as a weapon of war. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) also expressed the grave concerns it shares with its UN partners about “escalating violence,” especially in the Greater Pibor area.

African human rights bodies and mechanisms, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), have also expressed their concern. In a resolution adopted at its last session, in Nov­ember 2022, the ACHPR deplored the “continuing human rights violations and abuses suffered by the people of South Sudan, including the deliberate targeting of and retaliatory attacks against civilians, particularly women and children, including sexual and conflict-related sexual violence, gang rape, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, deliberate starvation, recruitment and use of child soldiers, abductions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions,” as well as “violations of economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to food, education, and health.” The ACHPR also expressed alarm at “obstacles to humanitarian aid […], reported intimidation and harassment of and attacks against humanitarian workers, including killings, and extrajudicial executions of prisoners” and its deep concern over “the shrinking of the civic and political space, exemplified by the reported arbitrary arrests and detention of protesters.”

All trends and patterns outlined in a civil society letter released one year ago have worsened. Our orga­ni­sations continue to monitor the situation and note the lack of structural improvements with the utmost concern. On­going violations and abuses include extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, violations of international hu­ma­nitarian law that may amount to cri­mes under inter­na­tional law, politi­cally instigated and sup­por­ted violence between commu­nity-based militias and vigilante groups, repres­sion against peaceful protesters, and harass­ment of ci­vil society actors, in a climate of widespread impunity.  Nationally instigated localised conflicts and intercom­mu­nal vio­len­ce are pervasive in Tonj and other parts of Warrap State, Magwi, Nimule and Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria State, as well as in Greater Upper Nile State, and parts of greater Jonglei and Unity State.

Human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations, jour­nalists, and others face undue res­tric­tions to their rights to freedoms of opinion and expression both online and offline, peaceful assembly and association. Independent actors face harassment, intimidation, surveil­lance, threats, attacks, and arbi­trary arrests and deten­tions, including incommunicado detention.

                                                                             *   *   *

Parties to the R-ARCSS committed to ensuring justice for crimes under international law and hu­man rights violations and abuses. The Afri­can Union (AU) and the Inter­govern­men­tal Authority on Develop­ment (IGAD) sup­por­ted this ap­proach. Yet four and a half years after the signature of the R-ARCSS and over seven years after the signature of the initial peace agreement, none of the me­cha­nisms provided for by Chapter V of the agreement, namely the Commission for Truth, Recon­ci­liation and Healing (CT­RH), the Compensation and Reparation Authority (CRA), and the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HC­SS), have been established.

In its latest resolution on the country, the ACHPR highlighted that “while the transitional justice mecha­nisms envisioned by Chapter V of the [R-ARCSS] […] are yet to be esta­bli­shed, there is a need for con­tinued monitoring of and reporting on human rights violations.” As the ACHPR stressed, the exten­sion of the transitional period should be used to “open the political space, adopt an election law, establish an inclusive electoral system, and advance the permanent constitution-making process.” All these issues are intertwined with human rights issues and reinforce the need for ongoing human rights scrutiny.

                                                                          *   *   *

This is not the time to relax the Council’s scrutiny. The mandate of the CHRSS remains critical and should continue until the reasons that led the Council to establish this mechanism have been addressed in a meaningful manner. The CHRSS should remain in place at least for the national elections (scheduled for Decem­ber 2024) to be held and the end of the tran­sitional period, in Feb­ruary 2025.

We urge the Council to continue its meaningful ac­tion on South Su­dan by extending the CHRSS’s mandate in full for a period of two years to enable it to comprehensively report on the election and transition process. The Council should request the CHRSS:

  • To present comprehensive written reports on the situation of human rights in South Sudan to it at its 55th and 58th sessions, to be followed by interactive dialogues;
  • To present oral updates to the Council at its 54th and 57th sessions, to be followed by en­han­­ced inter­active dialogues, with the participation of representatives of the African Union, of the Inter­governmental Authority on Development, and of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan; and  
  • To share its reports and recommendations with the African Union and all relevant organs of the United Nations, and to submit comprehensive reports to the General Assembly at its 78th and 79th sessions, to be followed by interactive dialogues.


We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.



  1. Action 54 – South Sudan
  2. Action for Community Education and Development (ACEDO South Sudan)
  3. Action for Community Transformation Initiative (ACTI) – South Sudan
  4. Action for Peace and Development Organization
  5. Action for Rural Transformation – South Sudan
  6. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  7. Africa Light Organization for Relief and Development (LFORD) – South Sudan
  8. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  9. Amnesty International
  10. Ana Taban Arts Initiative – South Sudan
  11. Anika Women Association (AWA) – South Sudan
  12. Arise Sociocultural Organization
  13. Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)
  14. Association of Media Women in South Sudan (AMWISS)
  15. Burkinabè Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
  16. Burundian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
  17. Center for Democracy and Good Governance – South Sudan
  18. Center for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice (CGPJ) – South Sudan
  19. Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA)
  20. Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRD) – South Sudan
  21. Centre for Innovation and Creativity – ICT Solutions (South Sudan)
  22. Centre for Legal Aid and Justice (CLAJ) – South Sudan
  23. Child Pearl Organization – South Sudan
  25. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia
  26. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO)
  27. Community Initiative for Partnership and Development (CIPAD) – South Sudan
  28. Community Organization for Peer Educators (COPE) – South Sudan
  29. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO)
  30. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  31. Dialogue and Research Institute (DRI)
  32. Echoes of Women in Africa Initiative
  33. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  34. Empower the Girl Child Initiative – South Sudan
  35. Empower Youth Africa (EYA) – South Sudan 
  36. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
  37. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
  38. Foundation for Youth Empowerment
  39. Geneva for Human Rights – Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme
  40. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  41. Greater Yei Human Rights Forum
  42. Humanitarian Development Organization (HDO)
  43. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
  44. Human Rights Watch
  45. Independent Human Rights Investigators – Liberia
  46. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH) – Togo
  47. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  48. International Service for Human Rights
  49. Itkwa Women Empowerment Organization (IWEO) – South Sudan
  50. Ivorian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CIDDH)
  51. Joint Border Peace Development Agency (JBPDA) – South Sudan
  52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)  
  53. Maridi Women Union General Association
  54. Men Engage Gender Equality Network (MEGEN) – South Sudan
  55. National Press Club South Sudan (NPC-SS)
  56. National Women Empowerment and Rehabilitation Organization (NWERO) – South Sudan
  57. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH Africa)
  58. New Vision for Sustainable Development (NVSD) – South Sudan
  59. Nigerien Human Rights Defenders Network (RNDDH/NHRDN)
  60. Nile Initiative for Development (NID)
  61. Nile Sisters Development Initiative Organization (NSDIO) – South Sudan
  62. Pan African Peacemakers Alliance (PAPA)
  63. Passion for the Needy
  64. People’s Demands Organization (PEDO) – South Sudan
  65. Protection International Africa
  66. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
  67. Resilient Organization – South Sudan
  68. Rural and Urban Development Agency (RUDA) – South Sudan
  69. Safe Orphans Charity Organization (SOCO) – South Sudan
  70. Screen of Rights (SoR) – South Sudan
  71. South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SSANSA)
  72. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
  73. South Sudan Women Empowerment Network (SSWEN)
  74. South Sudan Youth for Peace and Development Organization (SSYPADO)
  75. SOWETO Community Based Organization
  76. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders)
  77. Support the Child Initiative – South Sudan
  78. Support Peace Initiative Development Organization (SPIDO) – South Sudan
  79. The Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy (TAHURID)
  80. Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CTDDH)
  81. Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS)
  82. War Widow and Orphans Association (WWOA) – South Sudan
  83. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
  84. Western Equatoria State Human Rights Network
  85. Wider Aid and Development Agency (WADA) – South Sudan
  86. Women Action for and with Society (WAS) – South Sudan
  87. Women Ambassadors for Peacebuilding – South Sudan
  88. Women for Justice and Equality (WOJE)
  89. Women Monthly Peace Forum – South Sudan
  90. Women Peace Forum – South Sudan
  91. Women Training and Promotion (WOTAP) – South Sudan
  92. Yei Youth Initiative for Human Rights and Development (YYIHRD)
  93. Youth for Democracy – South Sudan
  94. Youth Vision South Sudan (YVSS)





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