South Sudan: Public Letter To The Permanent Missions of African States to the United Nations in Geneva Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Sierra Leone and South Africa

Excellencies,

The undersigned African civil society organisations write to urgently appeal to members of the African Group to ensure that the serious, widespread, and ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan are adequately addressed by the UN Human Rights Council during its 26th session. To that end, we call for the African Group to reject the most recent draft resolution of 19th June 2014 as amended by South Sudan, concerning Technical Assistance and Capacity Building (Item 10).

Since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013, countless thousands of civilians have been killed in South Sudan, and both government and opposition forces have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported just six days ago, throughout the last six months ‘people have been killed, raped and beaten; homes torched, livelihoods demolished'{{1}}. On 8 May 2014, the UN Mission in South Sudan reported on mass human rights violations in South Sudan by both parties to the conflict, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and targeted attacks against civilians{{2}}. These constitute international crimes, and it is incumbent upon the Human Rights Council to act.

Whilst we laud the African Union and IGAD in taking an important role in guiding the peace process in South Sudan, human rights violations of this magnitude are the concern of the entire international community. The credibility of the Human Rights Council is thus tied to its ability to respond to the dire situation in South Sudan. The Council must be seen to take a public stand on these serious human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and ensure that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of these atrocities. The AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan issued a declaration on 15 May 2014 that it is “leaning towards the creation of a hybrid court…to be established jointly by the African Union and the United Nations” to prosecute international crimes. This is an indication of the gravity of the atrocities committed since the outbreak of the conflict.

Long before the outbreak of violence in December 2013, the Human Rights Council has devoted insufficient attention to the situation of human rights in South Sudan. The most recent draft resolution, drafted by South Sudan, does not reflect the lived reality for the millions of South Sudanese civilians affected by the ongoing crisis. It is essential that the Human Rights Council adopt a position that includes:

–        A call for increased and more public reporting on the human rights situation in South Sudan by UNMISS and OHCHR;

–        The establishment of a longer-term reporting mechanism to the Council;

–        A strong call for accountability and justice, including the rejection of amnesties for all perpetrators of international crimes;

–        A strong call for the ratification of core human rights instruments by South Sudan and to deposit the instruments of ratification with the relevant intergovernmental institutions;

–        The provision of the AU Commission of Inquiry with an opportunity to brief the Council on its progress, initial recommendations and greatly enhanced technical, logistical, and financial support;

–        The provision of robust capacity building of the South South Sudanese judiciary, department of public prosecution, legal aid services, private lawyers, police and prison services to enable them to handle the prosecutions of human rights violations that have taken place since the outbreak of the conflict;

We thank you for your attention,

ADVOCATES FOR PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW, UGANDA

AFRICAN CENTRE FOR PEACE AND HUMANITARIAN DIALOGUE, SOUTH SUDAN

ASSOCIATION OF MEDIA WOMEN IN SOUTH SUDAN

CITIZENS FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE, SOUTH SUDAN

COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT FOR PROGRESS ORGANISATION, SOUTH SUDAN

DARFUR RELIEF AND DOCUMENTATION CENTRE, SUDAN

EAST AND HORN OF AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS PROJECT

GREATER UPPER NILE, BAR EL GAZHAL & EQUATORIA YOUTH ASSOCIATION, SOUTH SUDAN

KENYA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

PAN-AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK

PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT COLLABORATIVE ORGANISATION, SOUTH SUDAN

PEN INTERNATIONAL, SOUTH AFRICA

PEN INTERNATIONAL, NIGERIA

THE ROOTS PROJECT, SOUTH SUDAN

SOUTH SUDAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK

SOUTH SUDAN FOR SUSTAINABLE PEACE

SOUTH SUDAN LAW SOCIETY

SOUTH SUDANESE NETWORK FOR DEMOCRACY AND ELECTIONS

STANDARD ACTION LIAISON FOCUS, SOUTH SUDAN

WOMEN AID VISION, SOUTH SUDAN

ZIMBABWE LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

[[1]] ‘South Sudan Crisis Response Plan 2014’, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 14 June 2014[[1]]

[[2]] ‘Conflict in South Sudan- A Human Rights Report’, United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), 8 May 2014[[2]]

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