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Pillay urges South Sudan to reverse expulsion of UN human rights officer

GENEVA (9 November 2012) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged the Government of South Sudan to reverse its expulsion order against a senior UN human rights officer working for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which she said was in breach of international agreements.

“In the two weeks since she was expelled, the authorities have so far not provided the UN with any satisfactory evidence of serious misconduct by the staff member in question,” Pillay said. “The Government therefore appears to be in breach of its legal obligations under the UN Charter and under the 2011 Status of Forces Agreement between the Government of South Sudan and the UN concerning UNMISS.”

Pillay noted that the reasoning given by the authorities when they announced the staff member in question had 48 hours to leave the country, accusing her of misinforming the international community about human rights abuses, was “utterly unsatisfactory and unacceptable,” and appeared to relate to the staff member’s core work as a human rights officer.

“The importance of allowing human rights staff to implement the full human rights mandate granted by the Security Council, including human rights monitoring, investigation, reporting and capacity-building, cannot be overemphasized,” the High Commissioner said. “Any attempt at undermining part of a Mission’s core mandate is a direct threat to the integrity and the independence of the United Nations.”

“If the Government has issues with the contents of a report, or with the manner in which the information is collected, they should be raised with UNMISS and with my office. The regular activities of a UN human rights officer cannot and should not be considered as serious misconduct or a criminal activity. The promotion and protection of human rights is an essential element in a country’s development and the establishment of rule of law.”

She called on the new State “to take urgent steps to ensure that the authorities at all levels respect their international obligations, both in terms of their treatment of UN staff and in their application of international laws and standards.”

Pillay said she fully supported the 4 November statement made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, and appreciated the strenuous efforts by Ms. Johnson to resolve the situation, including her repeated requests to the Government to explain its actions.

“I urge the Government of South Sudan to reverse its expulsion order and find a solution to this unfortunate episode, which contradicts the Government's publicly stated commitment to human rights,” Pillay said. “This commitment was restated to me during the discussions I had with President Salva Kiir and other senior Government officials during my visit to South Sudan in May of this year.”

ENDS

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