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South Sudan: the UN assumes its responsibility to maintain a focus on human rights violations

The UN Human Rights Council has assumed its res­pon­si­bi­lity to maintain international pressure on South Sudan over its human rights situation. Defend­De­fen­ders welcomes the extension of the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS). We regret that the Council failed to speak with one voice as it adop­ted a second resolution on the country today; in practice, this will enhance report­ing on the country. 

“The resolution that extends the mandate of the CHRSS reflects the reality of the situation in South Sudan and deserves full support,said Has­san Shire, Exe­cu­tive Direc­tor, Def­end­­Defen­ders.We regret that African states did not openly support the Commission’s mandate as it is the only mechanism that collects and preserves evidence of violations for future prose­cu­tions.”  

In addition to extending the Commission’s mandate, resolution L.29/Rev.1 expres­ses concern at widespread and pervasive violence at the subnational level, localised conflicts, on­going crimes (some of which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity) such as re­cruitment and use of child soldiers, the use of starvation as a method of warfare, attacks on civilian infrastruc­ture, violence against human rights defen­ders, humanitarian per­son­nel and journalists, and se­xual and gender-based violence. It stresses that those responsible should be held accountable. 

The resolution recognises the vital role played by human rights defenders, women peace­builders, the media and civil society organisations in promoting human rights. 

“Discontinuing the mandate of the CHRSS, with its investigative functions, would have sent the wrong message to perpetrators of abuses,” said Estella Ka­bach­­wezi, Advocacy, Research and Communications Ma­na­­ger, Def­end­­Defen­ders. “Accounta­bi­lity, including through the Hybrid Court for South Su­dan, remains a priority to break the cycle of violence and usher in a better future for all South Sudanese citizens.” 

Resolution L.29/Rev.1 acknowledges that “demonstrable progress in key human rights issues of concern is critical to any future change to the mandate” of the CHRSS. It encourages the deve­lop­ment of a transition plan, with benchmarks and milestones to inform the Human Rights Council’s future consideration of South Sudan. It also includes a number of technical assistance elements. 

The second resolution, L.20, was presented by Cameroon on behalf of the group of African states. It focuses on technical assist­ance and capacity building. It sought to discontinue the mandate of the CHRSS, in particular its collection and preservation of evidence functions. In practice, its adoption will enhance ­scru­tiny of and report­ing on the country. 

This resolution does not fully reflect the human rights situation in South Sudan. As myriads of local-level conflicts threaten to spiral out of control, the situ­ation is actually deteriorating. 

Ahead of the session, a group of 38 NGOs urged states to support the extension of the mandate of the CHRSS, in a joint letter.1 During the session, DefendDefenders stressed that South Sudan still required the UN’s utmost attention.2  

In June 2020, the Council had extended the mandate of the CHRSS, which was created in 2016, for the fourth time.3 Independent reporting on the country, including by the CHRSS, other UN bodies such as the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and NGOs, demonstrate the prevalence of grave violations and abuses. Civic space is under intense pressure. In particular, human rights defenders and independent actors have been targeted.


For more information, please contact: 

Hassan Shire

Executive Director, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali)

Estella Kabachwezi

Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 782 360 460 (English)

Nicolas Agostini

Representative to the United Nations, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +41 79 813 49 91 (English and French) 



1  DefendDefenders et al., “Human Rights Council: Extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan,” 5 February 2021, (accessed on 24 March 2021). 

2  Hassan Shire, “South Sudan still needs the UN’s utmost attention,” 9 March 2021, (accessed on 24 March 2021). 

3  DefendDefenders, “South Sudan: UN rights council extends investigators’ mandate,” 22 June 2020, (accessed on 24 March 2021). 

4  DefendDefenders, “Targeted but Not Deterred: Human rights defenders fighting for justice and peace in South Sudan,” 19 May 2020, (accessed on 24 March 2021).