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Press Release South Sudan

South Sudan Civil Society Coalitions urgently call for renewal of the mandate of the  Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. 

Press release,

To: All Human Rights Council Member States 

Dear Members of the Human Rights Council, Your Excellencies, 

March 17, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — We, the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) and the South Sudan Civil Society  Forum (SSCSF), two coalitions of more than 250 South Sudanese civil society organisations  combined who work to advance transitional justice and the broader implementation of the  Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), extend  our voice on the importance of renewing, in full, the mandate of the Commission on Human  Rights in South Sudan (CoHRSS) and calls on the Human Rights Council to do so by  consensus. 

The CoHRSS fills a critical gap in the collection and preservation of evidence with a view to  accountability and is the only independent mechanism doing this work in South Sudan. We  are therefore concerned to learn that the Africa Group, lead by Cameroon, is presenting an  alternative resolution that would mandate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human  Rights (OHCHR) to provide technical assistance and capacity building to South Sudan. Such  an approach would signify a misunderstanding of the realities in South Sudan by the Human  Rights Council (HRC), only serve to embolden perpetrators of gross human rights violations  and abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and let down countless of South  Sudanese citizens and survivors of the conflict. Moreover, the current CoHRSS’s mandate  already contains a technical assistance component. 

We note with appreciation the HRC’s agreement in HRC resolution 43/27 that “demonstrable  progress in key human rights issues of concern” should be critical in determining “any future  change to the mandate of the CoHRSS.”  

Through the recent years and since the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, South Sudan as a county has not shown any significant progress in improving the human rights of 

its citizens to warrant such a serious change in the CoHRSS’s mandate. On the contrary, analysis by the Stimson Center shows a 400% increase in violence against civilians in 2020  compared to the same period in 2019.1This violence comprised of fighting among  government and opposition forces characterized by gross human rights violations, including  sexual violence, as well as between ethnic groups and communities. The latter demonstrates a  failure of the government to protect people from killings, abductions and sexual violence. 

The latest report by the CoHRSS, presents a harrowing and consistent account of the nature  of human rights violations in the country which cannot be ignored. 

The increasing incidents of human rights violations are exacerbated by the government’s  failure to establish the transitional justice mechanisms foreseen in Chapter V of the 2018  Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R ARCSS) and to significantly reform the security and justice sectors as guarantees of non recurrence.  

The R-ARCSS provides for the establishment of three transitional justice mechanisms  including a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS). Almost two and half years since the  signing of the 2018 peace agreement, the parties have not shown any progress towards ending  impunity and securing meaningful accountability. Without concrete steps to operationalize  the recent cabinet approval of a plan to establish the transitional justice mechanisms,  including the HCSS by signing the MoU and statute for the court, impunity is bound to continue to escalate violence.  

The CoHRSS plays an important role in providing technical assistance to the authorities to  ensure that the Ministry of Justice’s plan is operationalized and remains the only viable and  independent mechanism to collect and preserve the evidence necessary to support future  justice including through the HCSS. We therefore urge the Council to renew, in full, the  mandate of the CoHRSS until the HCSS is fully established and operational.  

South Sudan’s judicial institutions lack independence and are too weak to adequately provide  redress for victims of crimes committed in relation to the conflict, so the HCSS and the  CoHRSS’s work is critical. In addition to holding those most responsible for crimes to  account, the HCSS would also be tasked to leave a much-needed legacy on South Sudan’s  domestic system which is also to be strengthened through judicial reforms and which the  authorities have failed to embark on despite their obligations under the peace agreement. 

1Stimson Center, Data Overview: Violence against Civilians in South Sudan, 13 October 2020,  

https://www.stimson.org/2020/data-overview-violence-against-civilians-in-south-sudan/ 

Your Excellencies, human rights are a foundation for stability in South Sudan and human  rights violations need to be addressed. The CoHRSS reports have offered a critical channel  for survivors to have their voices heard. 

We invite you for a call with us and with leaders of the victim groups we work with to hear  directly from them to further understand the importance of the Commission on Human Rights  in South Sudan. 

Yours Sincerely, 

The Transitional Justice Working Group and the South Sudan Civil Society Forum


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