South Sudan: UN Inquiry decries impunity for Human Rights violations, identifies individuals warranting investigation
03 April 2023
GENEVA (3 April 2023) – Without tackling impunity, South Sudan will not stem pervasive violence and horrific human rights violations and abuses, a UN inquiry said Monday in a new report that details how perpetrators of the most serious crimes, including widespread attacks against civilians and extrajudicial killings, remain unpunished. Senior Government officials and military officers are implicated in serious human rights violations.
Entitled “State of impunity: the persistence of violence and human rights violations in South Sudan,” the 114-page report of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is based upon its investigations in six states of South Sudan and in the neighbouring region over the last 12 months.
“Over several years, our findings have consistently shown that impunity for serious crimes is a central driver of violence and misery faced by civilians in South Sudan,” said Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission. “So we have taken the step of naming more of the individuals who warrant criminal investigation and prosecution for their role in gross human rights violations,” she added.
Following the presentation of its 20-page report of main findings to the Human Rights Council on 7 March 2023, the full report published today reflects in greater detail the Commission’s findings on emblematic situations and sites of human rights violations during 2022.
These situations include widespread attacks against civilians, including killings, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, as well as mass displacement, in multiple states. The Commission found that while the Government of South Sudan has announced special investigation committees into several situations, not one has led to any form of accountability. Government and military personnel implicated in these serious crimes remain in office.
“Once again, hundreds of South Sudanese shared with our Commission their experiences of being subjected to a range of human rights violations. Their suffering is immense. The State continues to fail in its duty to protect civilians, and to ensure accountability for violations. We call upon the authorities to properly investigate alleged perpetrators of serious crimes, no matter their rank or office, and to establish and strengthen the justice mechanisms for holding them accountable,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham.
The report identifies Unity State Governor Joseph Monytuil and Lieutenant General Thoi Chany Reat of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces as among the individuals warranting criminal investigation in relation to State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings carried out in Mayom in August 2022. Koch County Commissioner Gordon Koang is among the individuals identified as being responsible for leading widespread attacks against civilians in Leer in February and April 2022. The Commission’s findings also identify other individuals warranting further scrutiny or investigation in relation to human rights violations in Warrap State, Upper Nile State, northern parts of Jonglei State, and the Equatoria states.
“Breaking the grip of impunity can only be achieved if the national authorities recommit and adhere to the values and promises in the peace agreement,” said Commissioner Barney Afako. “Political leaders are accountable to the people of South Sudan, and must therefore ensure that civic space for discussion is protected if the country’s first electoral and constitution-making processes are to be credible and positively impactful,” he added.
Justice systems and initiatives in South Sudan are assessed in the report, including the State’s recent use of military courts and ad hoc inquiries. The report further describes and analyses thematic human rights issues, including the use of children in the armed forces and in armed groups, conflict-related sexual violence, the political economy context of human rights violations, and the virtual disappearance of civic space in the country.
Background on the Commission: The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. First established in March 2016, it has been renewed annually since. Its three Commissioners are not UN staff, they are not renumerated for their work as Commissioners, and they serve independently in their capacity as experts. They are supported by a Secretariat based in Juba, South Sudan. The Commission is mandated to investigate the situation of human rights in South Sudan, and to determine and report the facts and circumstances of human rights violations and abuses, including by clarifying responsibility for violations and abuses that are crimes under national and or international law. The Commission’s findings are informed by interviews conducted with victims and survivors of human rights violations, as well as witnesses, clinicians, service providers, and related experts and stakeholders. To assist in addressing impunity, the Commission is also mandated by the to collect and preserve evidence, and to make this available to transitional justice mechanisms, including the Hybrid Court envisaged in the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement.
For more information about the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, see its webpage, and follow @UNCHRSSon Twitter.