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Renewed political commitment to initiate transitional justice in South Sudan must deliver for victims, UN experts note

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1 February 2021

Juba/Geneva (1 February 2021) – The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan welcomed today the decision by the South Sudanese Government on Friday, 29 January 2021 to proceed with the processes of establishing the Hybrid Court, and other transitional justice mechanisms to address violations committed during the conflict.

In fulfilment of outstanding obligations under the 2018 Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, the Cabinet formally requested the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to take the necessary steps for establishing (i) the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing to investigate and document patterns of human rights violations and causes of the conflict in South Sudan; (ii) the Hybrid Court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law, and atrocity crimes; and (iii) the Compensation and Reparation Authority that will administer a fund to provide reparation and assistance to affected victims.

“After more than two years of delay the Government has at last taken the first steps to initiate key transitional justice measures to address the legacy of gross human rights violations in South Sudan,” stated Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka. “If the Government of South Sudan is to retain any credibility whatsoever, the political rhetoric must translate into tangible, and genuine results,” she cautioned. “Most critically, the Government must complete all the processes of reconstituting the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, which is to enact the domestic legislation for establishing the three transitional justice mechanisms under the 2018 Agreement. The Commission has provided benchmarks to the Government on the speedy implementation of the commitments under Chapter V.”

A failure to adhere to the timelines of the 2018 Agreement, a particularly protracted political stalemate, delayed the formation of the new Government and the completion of key appointments, putting the establishment of the transitional justice mechanisms on hold.

“These delays have meant that the underlying causes and drivers of the conflict, including competition for resources, territorial control, and political influence, have continued to fuel localized conflicts, rampant corruption, and economic crimes in South Sudan,” stated Commissioner Andrew Clapham. Meanwhile, those responsible for war crimes and continuing human rights violations have been emboldened by a system that permits impunity for torture, enforced disappearances, and atrocity crimes,” he added.

The absence of accountability and reparation, including for sexual violence, undermines the fabric of society, breeds resentment, and defers the prospects of reconciliation and healing, while victims also continue to bear multiple burdens of physical, psychological, and socio-economic consequences of the violations, the Commission noted. The delay in establishing these institutions has robbed the people of South Sudan of the opportunity to achieve sustainable peace.

“Given the approval of the Cabinet, the Government should now take immediate steps to sign the memorandum of understanding with the African Union and adopt the draft Statute to establish the Hybrid Court,” said Commissioner Barney Afako. “It should also initiate broad-based and inclusive national consultations so that South Sudanese can contribute towards the formation of the other transitional justice processes, especially the truth commission,” he added.

The Commission further stressed that the hopes and expectations of the South Sudanese people will be raised again by the Government’s announcement, and that the Government must deliver on its obligations, including by prioritizing the provision of urgent and comprehensive reparation measures to address the harms and losses suffered by victims and communities.

“We also welcome the statement of the Chair of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki expressing his support to the Government of South Sudan and the people of South Sudan in their quest for peace and security in South Sudan”.

ENDS

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan was established by the Human Rights Council in March 2016 and extended in March 2017, and for further years in March 2018, March 2019, and June 2020, with a mandate to determine and report the facts and circumstances of, collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence and ethnic violence, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability.

For media queries, please contact:

JUBA: Martin Bohnstedt, bohnstedt@un.org or +211 912 067 986
GENEVA: Rolando Gomez, rgomez@ohchr.org or +41 79 477 4411
More information about the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, and @UNCHRSS on Twitter


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