The Human Rights Council should continue its meaningful action on South Sudan

African states should support both technical advice and scrutiny

As the UN Human Rights Council is considering two draft resolutions on South Sudan, it is important for states to prioritise the rights and needs of victims and survivors of atrocities committed in the country, when they assess what the Council’s response should be. 

In recent reports, High Commissioner Bachelet, the UN Mis­sion in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) have all made clear that South Sudan remains among the most serious situations on the African continent. Human rights violations remain gross, widespread, and systematic. Impunity remains near-total. 

While civil war has not resumed at the national level since September 2018, myriads of localised conflicts pose a massive threat to the country’s stability. Risk factors of further violence and atrocities are significant. Civil society actors are also facing an intensifying crackdown. 

In a letter released ahead of the Council’s 49th session, civil society (with an unprece­den­ted number of signa­to­ries: 81) urged the Council to renew the mandate of the CHRSS. This is what the draft resolution presented by the core group (this year under item 2) seeks to achieve. 

The CHRSS remains a vital mechanism. Its broad man­date enables the international community to shine a light on atrocities committed against South Sudanese citizens, including sexual violence against women and girls. 

Civil society stresses that moving to a purely “technical assistance” approach and discon­tinuing the mandate of the CHRSS would be pre­mature. I stress that it would be a mistake. Focusing on technical assistance would mean setting investigations and account­abi­lity aside. It would mean running the risk of giving perpetrators a free pass and allowing them to commit further atrocities with impunity. 

UN member states should send the right signal to South Sudan. African states should not fail the South Sudanese people. 

While enhancing the provision of tech­nical assistance and capacity-building services to the country is legi­ti­mate (in particular to finally establish transitional justice institutions), African states should in parallel sup­port the ex­ten­sion of the mandate of the CHRSS to ensure ongoing scrutiny and accountability in South Sudan. 


Hassan Shire

Executive Director, DefendDefenders

Chairperson, AfricanDefenders


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Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.