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Human Rights Council holds enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in South Sudan

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

18 September 2017

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in South Sudan. 

Taking part in the dialogue were Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Yasmin Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan; Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan; Augustino Njorge, Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan; Eugene Nindorera, Director of Human Rights of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan; and Khabele Matlosa, Director of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission.

In her opening statement, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the scale of human suffering generated by the crisis in South Sudan was almost beyond description.  Civilians bore the brunt of that violence and destruction – the fruit of a deep failure of leadership.  More than a third of South Sudan’s population was displaced by the crisis, of which more than two million were children.  All parties to the conflict had committed gross violations, including widespread sexual violence, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, attacks on humanitarian workers and programmes, and targeting of civilians and civilian objects.  It was clear that some of those violations could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.  It was well past time for principled leadership to act in the interest of all South Sudanese, Ms. Gilmore underlined.

Yasmin Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan needed to be established swiftly, but that the people of South Sudan also needed a commission on truth and healing.  The national dialogue would not enjoy countrywide support, as there was a prevailing climate of fear.  Some argued that justice should wait for peace, but in fact peace and justice had to advance in tandem, otherwise the suffering would continue. 

Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan, said that since the crisis of 2013, South Sudan had continued to be condemned by some as a country which was rapidly losing its central power and sovereignty.  The allegations had been exaggerations by those who wanted to make South Sudan their project.  Due to the resilience and determination of the leadership and the people of South Sudan, the country continued to maintain its sovereignty, central power, and control of most of its territory.  As a result of the commitment to the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, a series of institutions had been established, including the Transitional Government of National Unity of the Republic of South Sudan; the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; and the National Constitutional Review Committee.   

Augustino Njorge, Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, reminded that the renewed hostilities from July 2016 across South Sudan had resulted in a rapid deterioration of the political, security and humanitarian situation.  The deterioration covered parts of the country which had been previously peaceful, thereby causing massive internal displacement.  Food insecurity and disease had contributed to the worsening of the humanitarian situation. 

Eugene Nindorera, Director of Human Rights of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, regretted the continued human rights abuses in South Sudan and the evolution of the conflict in that country.  The opposition fighters used guerrilla tactics, while the Government used a heavy-handed approach towards the population because of their political allegiance or ethnicity.  The need for more manpower had fuelled forceful recruitment of fighters, including of children by all parties to the conflict.  Civilians continued to be detained for years without any access to justice.

Khabele Matlosa, Director of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, recalled that the human cost of the war in South Sudan was one of the major concerns of the African Union.  Since 2013 between 50,000 and 300,000 people had been killed.  The report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry in South Sudan released in 2015 had demonstrated serious human rights violations, and it had recommended the establishment of accountability and justice mechanisms to end impunity, establish truth and reconcile society.  The belligerent parties needed to desist from forcibly recruiting children as child soldiers.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers regretted the deepening of the humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan, with increasing numbers of internally displaced persons.  The Government needed to adhere to the unilateral ceasefire and should further ensure that the media could operate freely as the documentation of human rights violations was key to ending them.  Some delegations commended the Government’s spirit of cooperation with regard to the establishment of the hybrid court, noting that the international community should support the processes underway.  Speakers, nevertheless, noted that some of the crimes committed in South Sudan could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, whereas the emerging food crisis was the worst in Africa.  They called on all parties to stop the violence and end impunity.  All stakeholders should promptly assume responsibility to end the violence against certain ethnic groups, indiscriminate bombings, sexual violence and all other violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Speaking were European Union, Sudan on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, France, Sudan, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, United States, Albania, Croatia, Austria, China, Portugal, United Kingdom, Mozambique, Botswana, Norway, Ireland, Algeria, Uganda, New Zealand and Ethiopia.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Lutheran World Federation, Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination EAFORD, and International-Lawyers.Org.  

Argentina, India, Brazil, Lao People’s Republic, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Pakistan spoke in right of reply in response to statements made during the general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, which concluded this morning.

The Council will next meet in public on Tuesday, 19 September, at 9 a.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.  It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, to be followed by a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.   

Opening Statement

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the scale of human suffering generated by the crisis in South Sudan, with its associated armed conflict and inter-communal fighting, was almost beyond description.  Civilians bore the brunt of that violence and destruction – the fruit of a deep failure of leadership.  More than a third of South Sudan’s population was displaced by the crisis, of which more than two million were children.  Two million South Sudanese had fled their country, with more than one million refugees in Uganda.  Close to another two million South Sudanese were internally displaced.  The panellists would set out the evidence which revealed that all parties to the conflict had committed gross violations, including widespread sexual violence, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, attacks on humanitarian workers and programmes, and targeting of civilians and civilian objects.  It was clear that some of those violations could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.  The Government of South Sudan had to acknowledge that those crimes had taken place, were likely to continue unless concrete steps were taken, and that accountability was critical.  It was the near total impunity for human rights violations perpetrated over the preceding decade that had sown the seeds for the crisis in South Sudan nowadays. 

Ms. Gilmore welcomed the Government’s recent engagement with the process for establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, and she looked forward to the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the court and the adoption of relevant domestic legislation.  Similarly, South Sudan’s acceptance of an expanded mandate for the Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan to include fact-finding was most welcome.  The Commission had to be provided with unhindered access to the country in order to do its job as mandated.  The Security Council had recognised explicitly the importance of human rights promotion and protection in the context of the current conflict and had identified human rights monitoring and reporting as one of the four priority areas for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.  Independent verification of the country’s human rights realities was not only the keystone of accountability, but the foundation stone for sustained peace.  National dialogue could open the pathway forward but it would 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 had to 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 was well past time for principled leadership to act in the interest of all South Sudanese, Ms. Gilmore underlined. 

Keynote Presentations

YASMIN SOOKA, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, told the individual story of one three-year old girl.  She had been raped, but the soldier responsible had only been required to pay a goat as a fine.  In 2013, the African Union had approved a hybrid court.  The court needed to be established swiftly.  But the people of South Sudan also needed a commission on truth and healing.  There had been little movement on establishing the truth commission.  The national dialogue would not enjoy countrywide support, as there was a prevailing climate of fear.  Non-governmental organizations needed national clearance and even anodyne topics were seen as too sensitive.  The Commission saluted the courage of survivors of sexual violence who had testified, and the soldiers responsible were being prosecuted.  Some argued that justice should wait for peace, but in fact peace and justice had to advance in tandem, otherwise the suffering would continue.  Delivering aid in South Sudan was becoming increasingly dangerous, and the Commission had witnessed 30,000 refugees arriving in Gambella, mainly women and children.  Establishing the hybrid court would ensure that the children of South Sudan had a future.

PAULINO WANAWILLA UNANGO, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan, said since the crisis of 2013, the Republic of South Sudan continued to be condemned by some as a country which was rapidly losing its central power and sovereignty, resulting in claims that the majority of its territory was under the control of armed groups, looming genocide, man-made famine, self-destruction and chaos.  These allegations were exaggerations by those who wanted to make South Sudan their project.  Due to the resilience and determination of the leadership and the people of South Sudan, the country continued to maintain its sovereignty, central power, and control of the majority of its territory.  Although a formal incorporation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan was still in progress, it had become the roadmap and the way forward by which the parties had bound themselves, inter alia, on issues of governance, institutional reforms, accountability for offences related to violations, and abuses of human rights committed since 2013.  As a result of this commitment to the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, a series of institutions had been established, including the Transitional Government of National Unity of the Republic of South Sudan; the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; and the National Constitutional Review Committee.  The Government was aware that obstruction and looting of humanitarian aid was taking place, mostly by marauding armed groups due to the economic conditions.  The paradox was that when the Government offered protection to escort humanitarian organizations when delivering the humanitarian aid to places considered insecure, the offer was turned down.  Then when the humanitarian workers were targeted or aid was looted, the Government was blamed for not having provided protection.  As a result of the national dialogue, the President had announced amnesty to those who were detained for involvement in inciting and recruiting youth to join armed groups, after the conclusion of the Agreement.

AUGUSTINO NJOROGE, Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, said renewed hostilities from July 2016 across South Sudan had resulted in a rapid deterioration of the political, security, and humanitarian situation in the country.  The Commission’s last reporting to the Human Rights Council had not covered this situation.  The deterioration covered parts of the country which had been previously peaceful, thereby causing massive internal displacement.  Food insecurity and disease had contributed to the worsening of the humanitarian situation.  Over the past years, the appeal to implement the Peace Agreement had not been heeded, and human rights violations had continued.  It was against this backdrop that in 2017, leaders had decided to convene a forum of the parties to the Peace Agreement in order to discuss restoring a permanent ceasefire and developing a revised and realistic timeline towards these ends.  This forum was the High Level Revitalization Forum, which would be a platform to discuss the key challenges.  Mr. Njoroge reported on the implementation of Chapter 5 of the Peace Agreement which called for the establishment of a range of peace and reconciliation institutions.  He noted that the establishment of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission was under way and there was progress on the hybrid court, however, challenges still remained.  Consequently the Commission appealed to all parties to heed the implementation of all measures under Chapter 5.

EUGENE NINDORERA, Director of Human Rights of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, regretted the continued human rights abuses in South Sudan and the evolution of the conflict in that country.  The opposition fighters used guerrilla tactics, while the Government used a heavy-handed approach towards the population because of their political allegiance or ethnicity.  The actual number of fatalities for August was higher than expected, and gender-based violence had continued unabated.  The need for more manpower had fuelled forceful recruitment of fighters, including of children by all parties to the conflict.  The number of refugees had now surpassed two million people, whereas another two million were displaced internally.  They faced multiple forms of displacement, which had led to a food crisis, which was exacerbated as a result of attacks on aid workers.  Civilians continued to be detained for years without any access to justice.  Many of them were only held because they expressed opinions contrary to those of the Government.  Enforced disappearances continued to be common.  The Government needed to immediately release persons arbitrarily detained and to allow them access to justice.  Mr. Nindorera welcomed the Government’s acceptance that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan be established, noting that accountability was key for a functioning democracy.  Only by ending impunity would South Sudan emerge from the current conflict. 

KHABELE MATLOSA, Director of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, recalled that the human cost of the war in South Sudan was one of the major concerns of the Africa Union.  This was demonstrated by the constant engagement of the African Union Peace and Security Council on the matter.  On 15 September, a joint African Union-United Nations task force on peace and security was held in New York to discuss the South Sudan situation, showing that the African Union was actively involved in resolving the crisis in that country.  Since 2013, it was estimated that between 50,000 and 300,000 people had been killed.  Out of a population of 13,175,900, about 4 million were forcibly displaced as a result of the war.  The number of South Sudanese who were forcibly displaced within South Sudan was estimated at around 2 million.  A further 2 million people had fled the country seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.   More than 80 humanitarian workers had been killed. 

The report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry in South Sudan released in 2015 had unearthed serious human rights violations.  It had recommended the establishment of accountability and justice mechanisms to end impunity, establish truth and reconcile society.  This recommendation was corroborated by the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.  Chapter V of this agreement provided for key mechanisms for transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing as part of a broader peacebuilding agenda and post-conflict reconstruction and development in South Sudan.  The new Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, had undertaken an official visit to South Sudan in March 2017, meeting key stakeholders and encouraging them to ensure the establishment of accountability mechanisms.  Belligerent parties must find a mutually agreed political settlement of the war pursuant to the commitment of the African Union to silence guns and end all wars in Africa by 2020.  Transitional justice, accountability and healing mechanisms had to be established in order to eradicate impunity.  Belligerent parties needed to be implored to desist from forcibly recruiting children as child soldiers.

Discussion

European Union said the humanitarian tragedy was deepening in South Sudan, with increasing numbers of persons internally displaced.  The Government needed to adhere to its unilateral ceasefire and it should further ensure that the media could operate freely as the documentation of human rights violations was key to ending them.  Sudan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, commended the spirit of cooperation of the Government of South Sudan, as well as all efforts taken so far with regard to the establishment of the hybrid court.  The international community should support the processes underway.  Germany condemned continuing human rights violations and deplored the lack of progress in establishing the hybrid court.  Germany called on the Government of South Sudan to stick to its ceasefire declared unilaterally, and asked the Commission how the Government could be encouraged to stick to its own promises.

France said violations of human rights in South Sudan might be war crimes and crimes against humanity, noting that the food crisis was the worst in the continent of Africa.  The parties were called on to stop the violence, as there had been no tangible progress on combatting impunity.  Sudan commended the spirit of cooperation shown by the Government of South Sudan, and encouraged the national dialogue aimed at bringing instability to an end.  The international community should continue supporting South Sudan.  Denmark expressed alarm at the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, noting that the Danish Development Minister had visited the country recently; the images of a population in despair were appalling.  Some 83 aid workers had been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the war, and impunity could never be accepted; the Government of South Sudan should fully cooperate with the African Union.

Belgium shared the concerns of the Commission on the serious humanitarian degradation in South Sudan and called for all stakeholders to promptly assume responsibilities to end the violence against certain ethnic groups, the indiscriminate bombings, the sexual violence and all other violations of human rights and humanitarian law.  Switzerland continued to be alarmed at the serious human rights and international humanitarian law situation in South Sudan.  Rape and murder during military operations had become the norm and ethnic violence remained.  Switzerland called upon all parties to stop violence and guarantee unlimited humanitarian access.  Netherlands welcomed South Sudan’s cooperation with the Commission.  Everyday arbitrary and motivated killings occurred.  The international community could not and would not remain silent in the face of these facts. The unabated impunity towards all parties to the conflict had to come to an end.

Japan said it was regrettable that the world was witnessing such violations associated with conflict and sexual violence in South Sudan.  It was the Government’s responsibility to ensure the end of violations.  It was also important that the African Union cooperate closely with the Government.  Australia hoped that the Government of South Sudan and other groups would implement the August 2015 Agreement.  It remained deeply concerned about the ongoing violence which had such a profound effect on the population, leading to 4 million internally displaced persons.  Reports of sexual and gender based violence committed against women and girls by all parties were particularly disturbing.  United States said unfortunately all parties to the conflict continued to exacerbate the human rights siutation.  Widespread sexual violence, including against children, was prevalent.  South Sudan was the most dangerous place for humanitarian workers. While both sides were responsible for violence, the Government forces were responsible for the majority of the violations.

Albania was concerned that fighting had progressively spread in all regions of South Sudan, particularly Greater Equatoria region.  Albania was also deeply concerned that the fighting had split communities down ethnic lines and often civilians were victims of targeting based on ethnicity.  Croatia advocated for the implementation of a transitional justice policy in South Sudan which should be based on fighting impunity.  In this regard, Croatia believed that the hybrid court for South Sudan would contribute to the investigation and the prosecution of individuals responsible for crimes.  Austria strongly condemned the violations of international law and international humanitarian law in South Sudan.  The numerous gender-based acts of violence and violence based on ethnicity were particularly alarming.  All perpetrators should be held accountable.  Austria was also concerned about the reduction of the democratic space, thus pressuring human rights defenders and the media. 

China said it had always advocated in favour of Africans solving African problems in an African way.  There was an urgent need for parties to the conflict in South Sudan to cease violence and push forward the political process to realize national reconciliation.  China called on the international community to provide for humanitarian assistance.  Portugal was concerned about acts of violence targeting civilians on the basis of their ethnic identity.  The burning of villages and the high number of rapes was simply unacceptable.  Portugal outlined that the use of children as child soldiers was shocking.  Making perpetrators of violations accountable was imperative and urgent.  United Kingdom voiced concerns about the high level of ongoing violence in South Sudan.  Women and children were subjected to sexual violations while rape was used as a weapon of war.  The Government must meet its obligations related to international law, said the United Kingdom.  It also condemned the targeting of humanitarian workers.

Mozambique took note of the content of the presentations, and said South Sudan was faced with a protracted instability, and it was high time for the international community to redouble its efforts in finding a durable solution to the conflict.  Mozambique paid tribute to the countries hosting refugees from South Sudan in the spirit of African solidarity.  Botswana called for an end to all violations of human rights by all parties, and expressed concern about sexual and gender-based violence, saying the cooperation of South Sudan was instrumental in that regard.  Efforts to end violence and ensure the promotion and protection of human rights were commendable, as were efforts of the Joint Monitoring Commission. Norway was appalled at widespread human rights abuses in South Sudan and said there had been no improvement since the Council last met.  Norway condemned violations and abuses in the strongest terms, and called for all parties to respect basic rights and human rights law, underscoring that the primary responsibility lay with the Government of South Sudan. 

Ireland reiterated its thanks to the Commission on monitoring the human rights situation in South Sudan, where 1 in every 3 people had been forced to flee their homes.  Ireland condemned attacks on humanitarian personnel, and asked how the voices of victims of sexual violence could be heard within processes of transitional justice.  Algeria called on the international community to support South Sudan and allow the rebuilding of peace throughout the country.  The international community was also called on to care for the humanitarian needs of the population.  Uganda supported the speedy resolution of the conflict in South Sudan, and welcomed the deployment of the regional protection force.  The United Nations mission in South Sudan needed to continue to carry out its Security Council mandated responsibility to protect civilians.

New Zealand stressed that the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan had not shown any signs of improvement, with famine and cholera gripping parts of the country.  It regretted targeted attacks on civilians, rape and sexual and gender-based violence, summary executions of civilians, arbitrary detention and arrests.  Ethiopia noted that the solution for the crisis in South Sudan was in the hands of the people of South Sudan.  Political dialogue and negotiations were a way to bring reconciliation and stability to the country.  

Lutheran World Federation stressed that there was no military solution to the crisis in South Sudan.  The need for national reconciliation had never been more urgent, but it would be difficult to achieve while there were people dying, starving and hiding.  All stakeholders should address the root causes of the crisis.  Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship drew attention to the arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of persons who had criticised the Government.  Attempts by the Government to control information flows online in the country continued.  Amnesty International highlighted the spread of the conflict in South Sudan to previously peaceful areas, such as the Equatoria region, with forced displacement, deliberate killings and widespread sexual violence against civilians.  Human Rights Watch drew attention to the highly abusive operations by the forces of the Government of South Sudan, which continued to target civilians based on their ethnicity and to stifle opposition.  More than half of the country’s population faced severe food shortages.    

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said while welcoming steps taken by South Sudan, it called on the Government to put an end to all violence. Today civilians continued to be attacked by State and non-State forces.  Sexual abuse was at an appalling level.  International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said the worsened situation in the last months, which included enforced disappearances, attacks on humanitarian personnel and sexual abuse, required coordinated action by the international community.  South Sudan was now the second largest source of internally displaced persons.  International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination EAFORD, in a joint statement, said despite peace agreements signed, these were not being kept.  Efforts to protect civilians had been to no avail.  A total of almost 2.3 million South Sudanese and over 1 million children had been forced to flee their homes.  In addition to the violence, starvation was an issue many South Sudanese faced.  International-Lawyers.Org shared the Commission’s concern for South Sudan.  While the provision of humanitarian assistance was consistent with international law, it was also a part of the responsibility of States that intervened in South Sudan, especially those States that were responsible for the proliferation of weapons in the country.  Therefore, the Commission had to also highlight the human rights abuses by these States. 

Concluding Remarks

KHABELE MATLOSA, Director of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, said the African Union was committed to working with key stakeholders in South Sudan to make the hybrid court operational.  It was imperative that all other institutional mechanisms provided for in Chapter 5 of the agreement were also prioritized.  It was important that as the international community helped the South Sudanese, peace and justice had to be pursued in tandem.

EUGENE NINDORERA, Director of Human Rights of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, said when a number of measures had been taken where a number of persons allegedly responsible for committing crimes had been arrested, this showed the will to act.  Political will needed to be looked at very seriously.  The hybrid court was also important because the Government and the African Union had made significant progress, and it was hoped that they would be able to sign the memorandum of understanding.  One of the questions asked was how the National Security Service should be restricted in what they were doing.  Wherever people were arrested without any legal basis, without access to lawyers or their families, that was simply unacceptable, and the National Security Service should be held accountable.

AGUSTINO NJORGE, Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, said there had been slow progress in the peace process in South Sudan, and there had been a concern about how its implementation could be improved.  The first priority should be given to a permanent cease fire between the Government and opposition groups.  The International Authority for Development had been preparing for a high-level revitalisation forum to gather all estranged groups around the negotiation table.  There was a need for the Commission to work on collecting evidence, which would be used at the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.  It was also important to communicate to armed groups that they would be prosecuted for their actions against civilians.  The Commission hoped that the revitalisation forum would succeed in gathering all the parties involved. 

PAULINO WANAWILLA UNANGO, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan, clarified that impunity mainly concerned the offences committed during the crisis.  Victims were able to talk to the Government, which then opened relevant cases.  All other offences were being tried by regular penal courts.  The problem was that victims did not communicate with the Government.  As for the claims about the looming genocide, they were exaggerated.   This was a matter of incitement and instigation. 

GODFREY MUSILA, Member of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said in implementing the extended mandate of the Commission to collect and preserve evidence, the Commission located its work in international law and had developed reference and methodology that responded to the need to adhere to international standards.  On evidentiary thresholds, the Commission was applying the necessary standards to ensure that the evidence was admissible.  Immediate steps by the Government would be to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed on its territory.  The prosecution authorities should do more than wait for the victims to come forward.  They should conduct their own investigations.   

YASMIN SOOKA, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said that in order to end impunity the Government had to keep the timelines.  In terms of sexual violence, women would not approach the Government unless there was an environment which was free in which one could come forward without fear of reprisals.  A workshop was being held on sexual violence in Juba to look at methods of investigation and documentation.  However what was really needed was a conducive environment in which the national dialogue could be inclusive and participatory.  Freedom of speech, movement, and assembly, as well as the end of disappearances and unlawful detentions, were what the Government needed to achieve in order for national security to reign.  Without this there would be no peace.  In terms of collection of evidence, the Commission would have a team of 16 experts on the ground as of September.  In line with this, the International Authority for Development and the African Union needed to do their jobs and the Government needed to cooperate with the experts, allowing them to do their work freely and enter all parts of the country. 

Right of Reply

Argentina, speaking in a right of reply in response to the non-governmental organization Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, said that the actions taken by the gendarmerie were taken to free up traffic on the road.  The national gendarmerie had reopened the street for traffic.  Then the road was blocked again and after people were injured the case was brought before a judge and prosecutors.  The investigative process was always focused on the gendarmerie, and it was the judges that would determine if there were crimes.  The Argentine Republic would fully investigate the reported events.

India, speaking in a right of reply in response to Pakistan, said that Pakistan had been misusing the Human Rights Council to pursue its objectives.  Jammu and Kashmir was an inalienable part of India, and the foremost challenge to stability in Kashmir was the scourge of terrorism.  Pakistan carried no credibility with the world and even the Foreign Minister of Pakistan had admitted that banned outfits were operating from within Pakistan.  Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s human rights record was deplorable and it was high time for Pakistan to focus on dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, reiterated its full commitment to effectively fight and prevent torture.  In relation to comments made on the National Reserve of Copper and Associates, Brazil said decisions regarding the National Reserve would take into account existing conservation units and indigenous lands in the area, all of which continued to be fully protected.  The Brazilian Government was strongly committed to the sustainable development of the Amazon and the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, with inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection, with full respect for human rights.

Peoples Democratic Republic of Lao, speaking in a right of reply in response to a question concerning the allegations of fabrication of evidence regarding the Hmong peoples, said that the country had 49 ethnic groups that were living in harmony since ancient times.  Each ethnic group had equal rights before the law, with rights to protection and promotion of their respective traditions and cultures.  The penal law prohibited all acts of ethnic discrimination and division, and barriers to participation, exclusion or selectivity based on ethnicity were all considered as punishable crimes.  The Lao Government had provided all kinds of necessary assistance to the Hmong who had returned from Thailand.  The Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Lao strongly urged the International Education Development Organization to prove the facts and state the reality situation on the ground, rather than quote from unreliable sources.

Iraq, speaking in a right of reply, said that a statement by a non-governmental organization contained inaccurate information about the battle against ISIS.  The Government’s operations had been conducted in line with human rights standards.  The battles of Mosul and Talafel had been under the direct supervision of the commander of the armed forces.  In addition, a centre of command had been set up in order to reinstate Government institutions and provide services to citizens in the liberated cities, especially to internally displaced persons.  Commissions had also been set up to investigate the crimes committed by Da’esh.   

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply in response to Armenia, noted that the illegal regime in temporarily occupied territories of Azerbaijan had survived due to the military and financial support of Armenia.  The only way to achieve a sustainable resolution to the dispute was the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.  The absence of condemnation of Armenia’s occupation appeased the aggressor and encouraged the status quo.  The current President of Armenia had led the massacres of Azeris. 

Pakistan, speaking in a right to reply in response to India, reminded that Jammu and Kashmir was part of the United Nations agenda and that it was not a bilateral issue.  Pakistan would not be intimidated by India’s lack of honour and the children of Jammu and Kashmir were not afraid of India either.  In recent years, the forces of fascist Hinduism had been emerging in India, ignoring the rights of neglected communities.  Cross-border terrorism had been used by India as a foreign policy tool.  India could not use terrorism as an excuse to hide its own human rights problems.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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