HRC37: Interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Human Rights Council: 37th session
Item 4: Interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Oral Intervention
DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Delivered by Mr. Ajo Kenyi on 13 March 2018 

Thank you, Mr. President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project expresses its gratitude to the Commission. Their findings shine an invaluable light on a protracted conflict where human rights defenders, civil society, and international humanitarian workers are routinely banned from accessing and providing aid to victims.

Human rights defenders in South Sudan struggling to document the ongoing violations are faced with harassment, threats against their life, and reprisals. On the weekend of 24 and 25 February, a civil society leader was reportedly blocked by agents of the National Security Service from travelling to participate in the High-Level Revitalization Forum peace talks, contrary to the terms of the December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

Mr. President,

As the Commission notes in its report, pending the operationalisation of the Hybrid Court, there is no mechanism to ensure accountability for what may amount to crimes against humanity. Although some soldiers have been convicted, civil society reports that the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards, and no senior officials are on trial. In fact, as the High Commissioner noted during the presentation of his annual report, three generals, identified by Security Council Sanctions Committee as responsible for grave human rights violations, were recently promoted.

Impunity continues to be a catalyst for new violations in South Sudan. Critical evidence, essential for future prosecution, is lost every day.  As long as there is no accountability, there can be no hope for lasting peace and reconciliation.  We call on the Council to renew and strengthen the mandate to include the identification of individual perpetrators, with a view to future prosecution.


I thank you.





Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.