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South Sudan

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

The information below on relevant human rights dimensions is provided ahead of the mandate renewal of UNMISS by 15 March 2023. The Secretary-General's quarterly report is expected to be published soon (the previous report covered the period ending on 30 November 2022).


Key topics below

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  • HRC expected to extend mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (3-4 April 2023). 94 NGOs call for the same.

  • HRC might reiterate competing "softer" resolution led by the African Group.

  • HRC will hold dialogues with the Commission (6 March) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (31 March) (TBC) on their respective forthcoming reports.

  • The Commission concluded country visit (17 February), speaking of the grave situation, which may indicate what to expect in its forthcoming report.

  • UNMISS's latest human rights report also noted increasing violence (17 February).

  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a resolution calling for further cooperation with the Commission (9 November 2022).

  • Women, peace and security (recommendations by the NGO Working Group).

  • Children and armed conflict (statement from May by the SRSG on CAAC and recommendations by the NGO Watchlist).

  • Security Council briefing by Head of UNMISS on 13 December 2022: Albania, the UK, the US, Brazil, the UAE, France, Gabon and Ghana.

  • Human Rights Council dialogue with the Commission on 18 March 2022: China.

  • Resolution 2625 of 15 March 2022, extending the mandate of UNMISS.

 


Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [1,010 words]

  1. On 3-4 April 2023, the Human Rights Council is expected to extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. This is following up on HRC resolution 49/2, led by Albania, Norway, the UK and the US. Resolution 49/2 was adopted by a vote of 19-11 with 17 abstentions, including several Security Council members: In favour: France, Japan, the UK and the US; Against: China and Russia; Abstained: Brazil, Gabon and the UAE. On the same occasion, if last year's dynamics are repeated, the Council may again adopt a competing resolution led by the African Group. The softer resolution 49/35, focused on technical assistance and capacity-building and was adopted by consensus. 94 NGOs called in a joint letter to extend the mandate of the Commission by at least two years, noting that the Commission's reports did not indicate any significant improvement on human rights. They noted that the competing resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building would be insufficient to address the situation and promote accountability. "The South Sudanese authorities’ failure to address these [violations and abuses] is grounded in the government’s lack of political will, not solely a lack of capa­city." The need for investigations and monitoring, not only capacity-building, was echoed in the statements of the UK and the US in the Human Rights Council on 29 March 2022.

  2. On 31 March 2023 at 9am Eastern Time (TBC), the Council is expected to hold a dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who will present his report, mandated by the resolution 49/35. The report will be published soon as A/HRC/52/82. ** UPDATE 10 MAR: OHCHR'S REPORT IS NOW AVAILABLE. ** The report addressed inter alia the main human rights challenges relating to: protection of civilians; rule of law, accountability and transitional justice; civic space and participation; and conflict-related sexual violence. It noted that access to judicial structures and support systems for victims of sexual violence remained limited; accountability remained a challenge, with the rule of law and the judicial infrastructure still weak or non-existent in various locations, further impeding access to justice; and undue restrictions and obstructions to civic and political space persisted. The report included several recommendations.

  3. On 6 March 2023 at 9am Eastern Time (TBC), the Council is expected to hold a dialogue with the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. ** UPDATE 27 FEB: COMMISSION'S REPORT IS NOW AVAILABLE: A/HRC/52/24. ** Armed violence continues, subjecting the people of South Sudan to gross human rights violations and abuses, including killings, torture, conflict-related sexual violence and the looting and destruction of homes and livelihoods. Certain government officials known for their involvement in serious crimes, including the fomenting of ethnic violence, remain in public office. The State’s failure to investigate effectively and prosecute these crimes is a violation of its international human rights law obligations [paras 106, 107 and 110]. On 17 February 2023, the Commission concluded its 11th visit in the country. In their statement, the Commissioners reported widespread attacks on civilians, shocking sexual violence and horrific accounts from survivors.* In Upper Nile State and northern parts of Jonglei State, extrajudicial killings continued, implicating senior State officials, who have enjoyed impunity even where the crimes have been caught on camera. The Commissioners noted that a UN protection of civilians site was struggling to accommodate tens of thousands of new arrivals fleeing violence. In addition, political and civic space in the country has reportedly continued to shrink. The Commission continues to identify individuals responsible for serious crimes and collect evidence against them, which could be used for future prosecutions by the Hybrid Court or other suitable accountability mechanisms. *On 21 March 2022, the Commission had published a 48-page report focused on sexual violence. Its last page contains recommendations to Member States and UNMISS, among others. Among their recommendations, they called to support initiatives to document incidents of conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys and members of the LGBTIIQ+A communities and increase the meaningful participation of women in political and public life, including in the initiatives of UNMISS. UN Women commented that conflict-related sexual violence has a disproportionate impact on women and girls and that these crimes have a chilling effect on the willingness of all South Sudanese women to participate in public life, including in peacebuilding.

  4. On 21 February 2023, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, said in a video message to the Conference on Sustaining Momentum for Transitional Justice in South Sudan: It is crucial that voices of people who have been scarred by decades of war, devastation and poverty be heard. This will require broader inclusion of all affected - including women and girls, those who had to flee the country and those who have been marginalised - to ensure the design and implementation of transitional justice processes that are truly fit for purpose.

  5. On 17 February 2023, UNMISS Human Rights Division published its latest quarterly brief on violence affecting civilians (October-December 2022). Its highlights included: ❖ A 42% increase in registered violent incidents and a 30% increase in the number of civilians affected. ❖ Violence involving parties to the conflict accounted for 61% of victims, while 37% is attributed to community-based militias and/or civil-defense groups. ❖ Abductions increased by 464% (!), in comparison to the same reporting period in 2021, and conflict-related sexual violence increased by 360% (!). The SRSG and Head of UNMISS, Mr. Nicholas Haysom, expressed his alarm.

  6. On 9 November 2022, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a resolution noting with appreciation and calling for further cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (the HRC resolution 49/35 led by the African Group did the same). The Commission deplored the deliberate targeting of and retaliatory attacks against civilians, particularly women and children, including sexual and conflict-related sexual violence, gang rape, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, deliberate starvation, recruitment and use of child soldiers, abductions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. It also urged that the Government take urgent measures to ensure that security institutions halt harassment and intimidation of, and attacks against, human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations, journalists and humanitarian workers, violations committed against civilians, including sexual and conflict-related sexual violence, and undue restrictions to the freedoms of opinion and expression online and offline, peaceful assembly and association.

  7. On 4 July 2022, Amnesty International urged South Sudan to fulfill past Universal Periodic Review commitment to develop a human rights agenda and action plan. On 2 February 2022, Amnesty International and partners offered detailed recommendations for 10 human rights priorities that, at a minimum, should feature in a human rights agenda.

 

Information previously considered by the Security Council [234 words]

Women, peace and security

  • In September 2022, the NGO Working Group on WPS called to mainstream gender-sensitive conflict analysis and address the barriers to advancing women’s meaningful participation in the peace and political process.

Children and Armed Conflict

  1. On 25 May 2022, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on CAAC, Ms. Virginia Gamba, delivered a statement at the National Conference on CAAC, which she attended during her third visit to the country. She noted that since the signature of the Comprehensive Action Plan in February 2020, thousands of members of the armed forces of South Sudan have been trained, hundreds of children have been released, and grave violations have decreased compared to just a few years ago. “These are steps in the right direction, but efforts must be sustained as all six grave violations against children continue to be committed by parties to conflict in South Sudan,” she said. She especially called on the authorities to address impunity, which remains rampant, including by reforming the justice system as envisioned in the revitalized peace agreement.

  2. The NGO Watchlist on CAAC offered recommendations along similar lines.

  3. In this context, it may also be worth noting that a UNICEF diversion programme allows for restorative justice and promotes rehabilitation and reintegration of children over punishment and imprisonment. Under the South Sudan Crime Act, no child under sixteen years of age shall be sentenced to imprisonment, but they are.

 


Comments by Members of the Security Council [322 words]

  1. On 13 December 2022, the Security Council heard a briefing by the SRSG and Head of UNMISS, Mr. Nicholas Haysom, who presented the SG quarterly report on South Sudan (S/2022/918). Albania strongly condemned the worsening human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, and their use as a weapon of war by all sides. Albania urged the South Sudanese leaders to investigate all reports and hold perpetrators to account, including officials accused of overseeing systematic gang rapes. The UK called on the Government to protect civilians and create the conditions for an inclusive dialogue to stop the violence. The UK reiterated its call for the Government to immediately remove obstructions and address the violence against humanitarian workers and civilians. The US and Albania urged the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) to facilitate a briefing by the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, as mandated in resolution 2633 (2022). Brazil encouraged inclusive negotiations among the parties, with the participation of women and persons with disabilities. The UAE underlined the importance of ensuring women’s full, equal and meaningful participation. France stated that it was essential to create conditions conducive to the participation of civil society in preparation for the elections. Similarly, the three African members of the Security Council at the time (A3), namely, Gabon, Kenya and Ghana urged that the implementation process continue to be fully representational of the spectrum of all South Sudanese populations, including all regions of the country and political affiliations, as well as women, young people and civil society.

  2. On 18 March 2022, the Human Rights Council held a dialogue with the Commission of Human Rights in South Sudan. China called to terminate the Commission's mandate, as it had not obtained the consent of the country concerned. However, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, acknowledged and welcomed the Government's cooperation with the Commission in her statement on 29 March 2022.

 

References in Security Council resolutions (not verbatim) [411 words]

  • On 15 March 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2625, which extended the mandate of UNMISS. It contained a detailed protection of civilians mandate, including through the continued deployment of UNMISS’s Child Protection Advisers, Women Protection Advisers, and uniformed and civilian Gender Advisers [OP3(a)]. It called to support an inclusive implementation of the Revitalised Agreement and the Peace Process [OP3(c((ii)]. The mandate also included monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of IHL and human rights [OP3(d)]. The Council called on the Government to hold accountable those responsible for committing and commanding these violations and abuses [OP11]. The Council expressed concern that despite the signing of the Revitalised Agreement, violations and abuses including rape and sexual violence continued to occur, which may amount to international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, [PP15] The Council reiterated the urgent need to end impunity and promote accountability, facilitate national reconciliation and healing, and ensure a sustainable peace, particularly those efforts undertaken by the UN-mandated Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan [PP17]. The resolution refers to women’s empowerment, participation and human rights [PP21 and OP14], preventing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers [PP28, OP20(o) and OP26], prevention and response to sexual violence with a survivor-centered approach, as well as investigating and reporting violations [OP3(a)(iv), OP3(d)(ii), OP15 and OP20(h and k)]. It may be worth noting that the HRC resolution 49/35 led by the African Group also emphasized the need for the Government of South Sudan to ensure the effective and meaningful participation of women during all stages and in all structures envisaged in the Revitalized Agreement [OP4]. The resolution also refers to CAAC, including to the Conclusions adopted by the Security Council Working Group on CAAC on 5 March 2021; the January 2020 Comprehensive Action Plan to end and prevent all grave violations against children; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; and the Security Council resolutions on CAAC [OP16 and OP20(m)]. The Council expressed concern about harassment, targeting, and censorship of civil society, humanitarian personnel and journalists and the severe restriction of freedoms of opinion, expression, and association [PP15, PP23 and OP8]. The Council expressed serious concern about the dire situation of persons with disabilities in South Sudan, including abandonment, violence, and lack of access to basic services, and emphasizing the need to ensure that the particular needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in the humanitarian response [PP24].

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