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South Sudan marks first independence anniversary amid human rights challenges

As the world’s newest nation South Sudan celebrates its first anniversary, it continues to face serious human rights challenges.  United Nations Human Rights Office representative in South Sudan Richard Bennett says human rights should be a cornerstone of the new nation.

“We congratulate South Sudan on its first anniversary,” Bennett said, “and welcome the Government’s commitment to fulfil its human rights obligations. A number of human rights challenges, such as stopping arbitrary detention and the ill-treatment of detainees, should be tackled immediately.”

“Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of detainees by members of law enforcement is well documented,” he said. “Rather than engaging in human rights violations, they should be protecting human rights.”

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, ending Africa's longest-running civil war.

But the remnants of the war are still visible. “There is a climate of impunity and the rule of law needs to be more firmly established,” said Richard Bennett. “In the first year of independence there have been a lot of concerns about inter-communal violence, especially in Jonglei state, in which many people lost their lives. UNMISS’ (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) investigation of the violence yielded nine clear recommendations to prevent such waves of violence in the future.”

Violence against women, including sexual violence and the abduction of women and children, also has to stop,” said Bennett, “Women’s rights have to be protected and discrimination eradicated.”

He acknowledged that the country is still in its infancy and that building national institutions may take years, but pointed out that some things could be done immediately without resources. 

“Some things will take many years, of course, for example to build the whole new institutional structure, new laws, school curricula - all of these will take time. But how long does it take to stop torturing someone? It only takes one second. And so some things do not cost resources and can be done now. Others will take time and require support and capacity building. We should acknowledge the need to address the long-term challenges but I hope the country can make some short-term achievements as well.”

Bennett pointed out that the Government has spoken very positively about human rights and the UN Mission to South Sudan and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, present in the country, are committed to supporting the Government to live up to its obligations through technical cooperation and other means.

13 July 2012


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