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Update on South Sudan

49th session of the Human Rights Council

Agenda Item 10: Interactive Dialogue on HC report on South Sudan

Statement by Nada Al- Nashif
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

29 March 2022
Geneva, Palais des Nation, Room XIX

Mr. President, Excellencies,

I am pleased to present the High Commissioner's report on technical cooperation and capacity-building for South Sudan, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 46/29. This report provides an overview of the human rights situation in the country and technical cooperation and capacity-building activities delivered by our Office, through the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, from January to December 2021. The information and analysis resulting from the Office's monitoring activities and the overall human rights situation constitute an important basis for identifying capacity-building needs and opportunities for technical cooperation.

Three years after the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, I warmly welcome a noticeable reduction of documented armed violence involving the signatory parties. We remain however concerned by continued reports of localized violence involving community-based militias, which persists in Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes and Warrap states. Of particular concern are reports of killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, forced displacement, abductions, lootings and/or destruction of civilian property.

The situation in Tambura, Western Equatoria state is characterised by grave and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, including attacks against civilians between June and September 2021. I refer you to the joint report of OHCHR and UNMISS published on 1st March 2022, detailing the findings of investigations conducted by the Human Rights Division. We urge all relevant actors to implement the recommendations contained in this report and to put human rights and the protection of civilians at the forefront.

Mr. President,

We welcome the meaningful progress towards the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement, including the reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, the appointment of the country's first female speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the launch of the Technical Committee on the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. Unfortunately, we also note continuing delays in the establishment of key transitional justice mechanisms, especially the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation and Healing, the Compensation and Reparation Authority and the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. We urge the Government to accelerate the establishment of all transitional justice mechanisms and to implement the Revitalized Agreement.

In December 2021, our Office, along with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and UNMISS, convened a three-day high-level conference in Nairobi to take stock of the progress achieved in the implementation of transitional justice measures and to identify opportunities and concrete strategies to advance the transitional justice process in South Sudan. Participants committed to engaging on the five resolutions adopted during the conference, to support transitional justice efforts in the country.

Our Office will continue to engage with the Government and other partners on the promotion of inclusive and participatory transitional justice processes and mechanisms in South Sudan. Through a Peace Building Fund project, our Office will support national stakeholders to enhance efforts towards addressing the legacy of conflicts and promoting peace, truth, accountability, reparations, national reconciliation, prevention and healing.

Mr. President,

The report underscores how localized violence, coupled with an inadequate judicial response, has bred a culture of impunity, which fuels new cycles of violence. We therefore call on the international community to further support South Sudan in strengthening its rule of law institutions and transitional justice mechanisms so that perpetrators are duly brought before courts of law.

In this context, the UNMISS Human Rights Division has provided technical support to the South Sudan Human Rights Commission to enable it to conduct field missions and independent investigations, and effectively monitor and report on alleged human rights violations. It also provided the Commission with support for the organization of human rights forums on raising awareness on transitional justice issues and effectively promoting and building a culture of accountability.

The UNMISS Human Rights Division also continued to build the capacities of national civil society organizations and legal aid providers, in order to develop and strengthen their ability to protect the rights of death-row inmates through legal aid and awareness, training of justice-chain actors and advocacy for alternatives to the imposition of death sentence. We are pleased that this resulted in the reduction of the imposition of the death penalty.

Mr. President,

I note the convictions by civilian courts in Warrap and Western Bahr el-Ghazal States of uniformed personnel for rape, gang rape and murder of minors, which occurred between 2019 and 2020. However, the situation of women and girls continues to be distressing, with conflict-related sexual violence frequently committed with impunity, as a pervasive form of individual harm.

Our Office continues to support efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. Over the last year, the UNMISS Human Rights Division conducted a number of capacity-building activities targeting the armed forces, government agencies and the community at large. For instance, the Human Rights Division in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, organized a workshop on survivor-centred investigation and fact-finding techniques in the context of allegations of sexual violence.

In June 2021, the UNMISS Human Rights Division also supported the launch of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan, the implementation of which has become one of the key benchmarks for review of the arms embargo measures by the Security Council.

Mr. President,

As we approach the electoral period, I remain concerned by the increasing restrictions on civic space and fundamental freedoms, including arrests and detention of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society actors. I encourage the Government to open up civic space and to refrain from restricting freedom of opinion and expression and the rights to peaceful assembly and association, which are essential for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections and a vibrant democratic state.

Mr. President,

I acknowledge and welcome the Government's cooperation with this Council's Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. I also welcome the constructive engagement of the Government with our Office and international human rights mechanisms, in particular during 80th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in November 2021 and 40th session of the UPR Working Group in January 2022.

In November, our Office received from the Government of South Sudan a list of needed technical assistance, including from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Peacebuilding. I welcome the initiative by the Ministry of Justice to establish an inclusive coordination mechanism with UNMISS and the UN Country Team to promote joint assessments, analysis and planning of capacity-building. Finally, I commend the Government for its willingness to engage with our Office – we stand ready to continue supporting it.

I thank you.