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UN arms embargo lacks critical human rights benchmarks – Amnesty International

Juba, South Sudan,

June 24, 2021 – Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International says it is disappointed in the United Nations Security Council for renewing the arms embargo against South Sudan and excluding critical human rights benchmarks.

UN arms embargo lacks critical human rights benchmarks – Amnesty International
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International Secretary General (photo credit: The Times of Israel)

“The Security Council’s adoption of limited benchmarks — heavily watered-down versions of only a few of those proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General in March — sets the stage for a repeat of past human rights violations and abuses and threatens to undermine gains from the hard-won three-year arms embargo, Amnesty says in a statement obtained by Nyamilepedia.

“Throughout the non-international armed conflict in South Sudan, weapons have been used to commit human rights violations and abuses. It is therefore disappointing that the Council did not include respect of the embargo, and therefore an end to arms embargo violations, as a benchmark,” it added.

The rights group says accountability, essential for addressing war crimes and insecurity, has been excluded by the UNSC.

“It is a let-down to survivors and victims of years of weapons-facilitated human rights violations and abuses that the Council dropped the requirement for the long-awaited Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) to be established and did not include an end to crimes under international law,” Amnesty rages.

In a staggering part of the report, Amnesty reveals that South Sudan has worked with a United States firm to squash the set-up of the long-awaited Hybrid Court of South Sudan.

“South Sudanese authorities have demonstrated a clear lack of political will to hold suspects of crimes under international law to account. Such impunity facilitates the perpetuation of ongoing and future crimes. Authorities have gone as far as hiring a US-based lobby firm in April 2019 to block and ultimately delay the establishment of the HCSS,” it says.

“After a public outcry, the parties amended the contract and removed the clause obstructing the HCSS. Pressure from multilateral institutions such as the Security Council is needed to establish the HCSS which, as well as contributing to justice for victims and survivors, would also deter future violations and abuses contributing to a more secure South Sudan,” Amnesty added.

Amnesty says despite compelling reports of gross human rights violations; the Council has not made any explicit requirement to reform the country’s abusive National Security Service.

“Regrettably, the Security Council did not include thorough NSS reform and the amendment of the NSS Act 2014, as a standalone benchmark.

Amnesty further raised concerns on the lack of explicit mention of crimes under international law which was dropped as a ground for targeted sanctions.

“Security Council resolution 2521 of 29 May 2020 renewing the sanctions regime for South Sudan described a set of activities that made individuals and entities who engaged in them liable for targeted sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes,” Amnesty International says.

“Such activities included – but were not limited to – violations of humanitarian and human rights law including the targeting of civilians, including women and children, abduction, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, attacks on schools, hospitals, or religious sites, acts of sexual and gender-based violence, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.

“Amnesty International is concerned about the consequences of the omission of this paragraph in this year’s resolution. It refers only to “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan”.

The rights group questions the commitment of the Council to implement targeted sanctions against individuals.

“While violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law do threaten the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan, the Council’s decision to remove the description of the specific activities risks sending the signal that the Council is less determined to impose targeted sanctions on individuals allegedly implicated in crimes under international law and indicates a clear setback in the UNSC’s commitment to prevent such violations and to hold suspects to account,” says Amnesty.

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