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Enhanced inter-active dialogue on the situation of human rights in South Sudan

36th session of the Human Rights Council

Statement by United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Kate Gilmore

Geneva, 18 September 2017
Salle XX, Palais des Nations

Mr. President, excellencies, colleagues and friends,

The scale of the human suffering generated by the crisis in South Sudan, with its associated armed conflict and inter-communal fighting, is almost beyond description.  Civilians bear the brunt of this violence and destruction –  the fruit of a deep failure of leadership.

As of today, over a third of South Sudan’s population is displaced by the crisis - of which more than two million are children. As of today, two million South Sudanese have fled their country, with more than one million now refugees in Uganda.  As of today, close to another two million South Sudanese are internally displaced.

These numbers speak to the gravity of the human rights crisis afflicting the county.  And the purpose of today’s panel is to brief us on its details.  Our panellists will set out the evidence which reveals that all parties to the conflict have committed gross violations - including widespread sexual violence, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings; including attacks on humanitarian workers and programs; including targeting of civilians and civilian objects.

It is clear some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The life-destroying impact on the people of South Sudan wrought by these violations must be brought to decisive end.  The government must acknowledge that these crimes have taken place, are likely to continue unless concrete steps are taken and that in this, accountability is absolutely critical.  After all, it is the near total impunity for human rights violations perpetrated over the preceding decade that sowed the seeds for the crisis in South Sudan today.

It is on this understanding that we very much welcome the Government’s recent engagement with the process for establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. We now look forward, with some urgency, to the signing of a MoU on establishment of the Court and the adoption of relevant domestic legislation.

Similarly, South Sudan’s acceptance of an expanded mandate for the Commission on Human Rights on South Sudan to include fact-finding is most welcome. The Commission now must be provided unhindered access to the country in order to do its job as mandated.

The same holds true for the UN United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. The Security Council has recognized explicitly the importance of human rights promotion and protection in the context of the current conflict and identified human rights monitoring and reporting as one of the four priority areas for the Mission.  OHCHR will continue to support the UNMISS Human Rights component in its daily efforts to monitor, investigate, verify and report regularly and publicly on the human rights situation in South Sudan.

Independent verification of the country’ human rights realities is not only the keystone of accountability, but the foundation stone for sustained peace. National dialogue can open the pathway forward but it will not progress in an environment scarred by misinformation, fear, threat and repression. For dialogue to succeed and contribute to the building of inclusive peace, it must also be rooted in respect for freedom of expression and association, and based on an appreciation of the vital role to be played by civil society groups and public media.

It is well past time for principled leadership to act in the interests of all South Sudanese, but it is not too late.  It is our hope that this interactive session can help underscore the strategies that can help turn around effectively and comprehensively the human rights crisis in South Sudan – an agenda around which all the stakeholders gathered here today can and we hope will unite.

Thank you.