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UNMISS to improve civilian protection after criticism

David Shearer, Head of UNMISS

The UN Mission in South Sudan has reacted to criticism by human rights defenders, saying it will do more to protect civilians in the country.

This came after reports of widespread human rights violations across the country, including killings, rape, and aid access restrictions.

In a joint letter, the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Center for Civilians in Conflict last week said UNMISS needs to do more to protect civilians and monitor human rights situation.

The three rights watchdogs said UNMISS needs to closely monitor changing conflict dynamics, conduct and regularly update hotspot mapping in consultation with humanitarian protection actors and civilians.

To protect civilians from sexual violence specifically, they argued that the body should carry out additional “foot and standing patrols” for POC site residents.

The Human rights defenders also said for the Mission to continue to improve its ability to protect civilians, efforts should progress to hold peacekeepers and other UN personnel to account.

UNMISS head David Shearer told Eye Radio that the peacekeeping body has already implemented some of the recommendations by the right groups and plans to do more to protect civilians.

“The mission supports many of their comments made on their letter and already have started implementing most of their recommendations,” he said.

“While there is still much more to be done, our plans for protecting civilians and building durable peace very much reflect the concerns and recommendations made by the group.”

The rights groups said the suggestions are in light of the upcoming review and mandate renewal of the mission, due to occur in coming months.

“A strategic assessment team from United Nations Headquarters is currently in Juba conducting a comprehensive review of UNMISS’ engagement in South Sudan,” David Shearer said in response.