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Statement by the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures at the 26th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in South Sudan

14 December 2016

Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Since armed conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, violence has continued unabated leading to an ever accelerating and alarming downward spiral of the situation of human rights – especially since the July 2016 violence that resulted from the political crisis –, resulting in grave violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, disproportionally impacting on women and children of all ages.

Reports of atrocious attacks on civilians, widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence, in particular the use of rape as a tool for ethnic cleansing, forced recruitment of children by armed groups, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances – including of children, torture and ill-treatment, extrajudicial and summary executions – “revenge killings” –, targeting of minority groups, internally displaced persons, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, humanitarian workers and UN personnel as well as of displacement sites, hospitals, schools and places of worship in a context of increasing ethnic polarization and absolute impunity are clear warning signs we cannot afford to ignore.

Mr. President,

Already in November 2013, prior to the outbreak of the armed conflict, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of internally displaced persons, Mr. Chaloka Beyani, while visiting the Republic of South Sudan, noticed that ethnically driven displacement was occurring in some parts of the country and that political tensions with ethnic undertones were high, hinting at a failure of the protection system in the country. Mr. Beyani’s observations went unheard as three years later the situation in the country very much resembles that of Rwanda preceding the 1994 genocide.   This time around the international community must not fail to prevent the same atrocities from happening.

Mr. President,

While the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015, promising among others the set-up of a hybrid court and transitional justice process, and leading to the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity should have been a sign of hope for the youngest country in the world, instead we have witnessed a lack of implementation of the commitments made and a complete breakdown in the political process.

Of particular concern is, as noted by the Security Council and the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, the pattern of human rights violations and abuses committed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA) and Opposition forces, members of the National Security Service and police officers. While all parties are responsible for preventing human rights abuses, we recall that the State has the obligation to ensure respect for human rights and international law, and exercise due diligence in order to prevent abuses by non-State actors and hold those responsible accountable.

We urge the Government and all parties to the conflict to abide by the peace agreement and immediately cease all hostilities, protect civilians and punish perpetrators. We further urgently call on President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar to refrain from making inflammatory speeches that could contribute to ethnic violence and instead publicly condemn all such violence leading to human rights violations and abuses, and call for their immediate end.

Mr. President,

The ongoing crisis has led to a serious deterioration in the food security situation risking famine.  During the year 2016, OCHA has provided humanitarian assistance to 4.1 million persons in need in South Sudan. Since the outbreak of the conflict, 1.87 million people have been displaced within South Sudan and a further 1.15 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. The safety and security of these persons must be the absolute priority and we condemn the targeted attacks against them as well as humanitarian actors, including UN personnel.

A number of security, political, administrative and environmental impediments, have severely restricted access by humanitarian organizations to certain localities and communities. We are deeply concerned that these constraints continue to hinder the delivery of aid supplies in certain states increasing the likelihood of wide-spread famine, and recall that it is imperative that unimpeded humanitarian access to all those in need is guaranteed.

Funding must be urgently mobilized to provide immediate assistance and protection to those inside South Sudan and those who have sought refuge outside the country. We call on all States to translate pledges made into action as soon as possible so that activities can be scaled up to respond more effectively to the crisis.

Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

While the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, upon concluding his visit to South Sudan, reported to the Security Council on 17 November 2016 that both the motivation and means for genocide are present in the country, he has also emphasized that we are not too late to prevent it if we take action now. With that knowledge, we have to take our collective responsibility and do everything in our power to prevent such atrocities from occurring and stop the ongoing ones.

In this light, we urge the Security Council and wider international community to follow through on the concrete recommendations for action both the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, have enumerated. These include: publicly call on the political leadership of South Sudan to immediately condemn and take steps to prevent any act of discrimination, hostility and hatred that could constitute incitement to violence; stress the importance of an inclusive political process accompanied by a cessation of hostilities; provide full support to UNMISS to carry out its mandate, including in relation to protection of civilians and human rights monitoring; expedite the arrival of the Regional Protection Force in South Sudan and ensure that the force is not restricted only to the capital but has a country-wide mandate; impose an arms embargo and enact targeted sanctions against key high ranking leaders.

In addition, we call on the Government of South Sudan to allow unhindered access to United Nations human rights monitoring and investigation teams, including Special Procedures, to the country, including conflict zones, places of detention and displacement camps, in order to conduct independent investigations and assess in situ the human rights situation in the country.

Thank you for your attention.