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S.Sudanese warlords could face justice around the world, says UN human rights experts

Author: Ayuen Panchol | Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Members of the Human Rights Council sitting through a session. Photo: UN HRC

The UN says it has identified 23 more individuals who bear command or superior responsibility under international criminal law for serious crimes related to the conflict in South Sudan.

Members of the Commission, mandated by the Human Rights Council to investigate human rights in South Sudan, told the Council yesterday that these individuals, along with previously identified alleged perpetrators, could face justice in courts around the world, not just in South Sudan.

The Human Rights Council noted that evidence it has collected could be used to prosecute perpetrators of crimes outside South Sudan.

In its latest report, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24312&LangID=E  the Commission documented cases where prisoners had been held in shipping containers with no fresh air or toilets.

It said witnesses also described torture, including beating and whipping, pulling out of toenails, cutting, burning and electrocution.

The Commission said it documented sexual violence, including brutal rapes including multiple gang rapes, sexual slavery, abductions, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, and mutilation of sexual organs as well as killings, at the hands of both government forces and those belonging to the opposition.

It noted UNICEF statements that in more than 25% of all reported cases of conflict-related sexual violence, the victims were children.

“The Commission also noted increases in arbitrary detentions, torture, executions and enforced disappearances. These generated paranoia and fear in South Sudan, with civil society activists reporting they felt afraid to speak out.,” the report said.

Despite the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, the UN team said the “agreement had not delivered an immediate improvement in the desperate humanitarian situation for the people of South Sudan.”

It reiterated its continued concern about the lack of progress in establishing the Transitional Justice mechanisms in September 2018.

“These mechanisms are essential for dealing with the past, preventing fresh violations, ensuring accountability and constructing a cohesive society,” said Commission member Barney Afako

However, the government argues that the delay or unwillingness by the international community to fund the implementation of the peace agreement has made it difficult to set up required institutions, and speed up the return and reparations of displaced persons, including setting up the hybrid court.

“Despite these delays in the establishment of justice mechanisms within South Sudan,” underlined Commission member Andrew Clapham, “Perpetrators of violent crimes in South Sudan should not think they can escape justice, as they could be prosecuted in international courts or domestic courts in other countries.”

According to the over 200-page report, the crimes reported occurred between May and June 2018 in Unity State, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Central Equatoria State.

Miss Sooka stressed that “It has become commonplace to say that these crimes take place because impunity has become entrenched…but it cannot be allowed to continue.”

Despite the castigating report, the UN Commission also called on the region and the wider international community to invest politically and materially in the Transitional Justice mechanisms in South Sudan.

“These are essential for building sustainable peace,” said Ms. Sooka, “As well as supporting the people of South Sudan in rebuilding all aspects of national life, especially the rule of law.”

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