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.4
For more information, please contact:
Executive Director, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali)
Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 782 360 460 (English)
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, https://defenddefenders.org/human-rights-council-extend-the-mandate-of-the-commission-on-human-rights-in-south-sudan/ (accessed on 24 March 2021).
2 Hassan Shire, “South Sudan still needs the UN’s utmost attention,” 9 March 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/south-sudan-still-needs-the-uns-utmost-attention/ (accessed on 24 March 2021).
3 DefendDefenders, “South Sudan: UN rights council extends investigators’ mandate,” 22 June 2020, https://defenddefenders.org/south-sudan-un-rights-council-extends-investigators-mandate/ (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, https://defenddefenders.org/targeted-but-not-deterred-human-rights-defenders-fighting-for-justice-and-peace-in-south-sudan/ (accessed on 24 March 2021).