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HRC40: DefendDefenders and partners call for continued UN investigations and reporting on South Sudan

Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council;


We, the undersigned national, regional and international non-governmental organisations, write to call on your delegation to actively support the full renewal of the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (“the Commission” or “the CoHR”) during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will take place from 25 February-22 March 2019.

Although the signing of the Revitalised Peace Agreement for Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), on 12 September 2018, has offered some hope to the peo­ple of South Sudan, fighting has continued in parts of the country and significant human rights issues remain unaddressed. The consistent failure by the Government of South Sudan to address violations and abuses is a key driver of ongoing violence.

The Council is uni­quely placed to stress that sustainable peace cannot be achieved without justice and to ensure that the existing international investigative and advisory mechanism for South Sudan can continue its work until a robust accountability mechanism can offer the victims and sur­vivors justice and redress.

Unfortunately, progress on the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) and other transitional jus­tice mechanisms provided for in the August 2015 Peace Agreement has stalled. The Commission is currently the only mechanism capable of conducting impartial and independent investigations into crimes under international law and other human rights violations committed in the context of the conflict, and collecting and preserving evidence. We urge you to extend the Commission’s man­­da­te until the HCSS, or at a minimum its investigative branch, is operational.

We call on the Council to follow up on its meaningful action on South Sudan to date by renewing the Commission’s mandate to enable it to support justice, truth, and reparations for the victims of the crimes committed in the country and to contribute to ensuring sus­tai­nable peace. Member and Observer States should support the development and adoption of a reso­lution that:

  • Renews the mandate of the Commission in full, to allow it to continue to conduct inde­pen­dent investigations into alleged hu­man rights violations and abuses and viola­tions of inter­national humanitarian law, and to collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify respon­sibi­lity for, alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, with a view to ending impunity and ensu­ring ac­coun­tability, with a particular focus on sex­ual and gen­der-based cri­mes, and attacks or reprisals against human rights defenders, huma­ni­tarian aid wor­kers and other inde­pen­dent actors;
  • Urges the Government of South Sudan and opposition groups to allow and facilitate access to all locations and per­­sons of interest to the Commission;
  • Requests that reports and updates of the Commission be transmitted to the Afri­can Union (AU) Com­mission in order to support and inform future inves­tigations of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the UN Security Council for conside­ra­tion and further action;
  • Encourages the AU Commission to take immediate steps, including the esta­blish­ment of the Hybrid Court for South Su­dan, to ensure justice for serious crimes committed, as rec­om­mended by the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan and provided for in the 2015 Peace Agreement and the 2018 Revitalised Agreement;
  • Urges the Government of South Sudan to sign the Memorandum of Understanding to for­mal­ly establish and opera­tionalise the Hybrid Court; and
  • Urges all States to encourage further concrete action to deter and address ongoing vio­la­tions of international law at the UN Security Council.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.




African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA)


Amnesty International



Assistance Mission Africa (AMA)

Center for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice (CIGPJ)

Center for Reproductive Rights


Commission indépendante des droits de l’Homme (Morocco)

Cush Organization for Development and Advocacy

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

Dialogue and Research Initiative (DRI)

End Impunity Organization (EIO)

Equality Now

Exiled Human Rights Defenders (EHRD)

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)

Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG)
Human Rights Watch

Padeo South Sudan
Remembering the Ones We Lost (ROWL)

Solidarity Ministries Africa for Reconciliation and Development (SMARD)

South Sudan Law Society

South Sudan Women Empowerment Network (SSWEN)

West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)