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South Sudan

Updated: Mar 3

The information below addresses relevant human rights dimensions for Security Council deliberations on South Sudan. We recall posting about South Sudan exactly a year ago.

Key topics below

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  1. Dialogue on OHCHR's report on technical assistance (2 April 2024).

  2. Dialogue on report of Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (1 March 2024).

  3. 95 CSOs call to extend Commission's mandate, detailing concerns (20 February 2024).

  4. Commission (CHRSS) reports on end of visit (19 February 2024).

  5. OHCHR provided update on technical assistance, noting concerns (9 October 2023).

  6. UNICEF recalled violations against children (9 October 2023).

  7. Government canceled visit of Special Rapporteur on IDPs (6 October 2023).

  8. Special Rapporteur on trafficking presented report on country visit (28 June 2023).

  9. HRC adopted 2 competing resolutions - relevant text noted (3-4 April 2023).

  10. Government expressed opposition to Commission's mandate renewal (3 April 2023).

  1. Reporting by UNMISS (with reference to violence, resources, institutions and the political and civic space).

  2. Independent assessment: Its reference to IDPs.

  3. Visit of Informal Expert Group on WPS (December 2023).

  1. Topics raised following briefing by Head of UNMISS (14 December 2023).

  2. Comments in HRC dialogue on technical assistance (9 October 2023).

  3. Voting on HRC resolution to extend Commission's mandate (3 April 2023).


Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [1,244 words] *updated

  1. On 2 April 2024, OHCHR is expected to present its report to the Human Rights Council (N/A, to be issued as A/HRC/55/77). The report was mandated by HRC resolution 52/43 of April 2023 on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan.

  2. On 1 March 2024, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) presented its report to the Human Rights Council (advance unedited version). The statements in the ensuing dialogue can be found here.

  3. On 20 February 2024, 95 civil society organizations released a joint letter calling for the extension of the mandate of the CHRSS. They noted that significant concerns exist not only about the country’s human rights situation but also about the absence of key conditions for the holding of free, fair, secure, and credible elections and about the absence of an enabling environment for civil society. The conditions that prompted the HRC to establish the Commission in 2016 have not changed significantly. The organizations detailed concerns, including that violence and impunity remain pervasive; the humanitarian crisis remains severe; uncertainty over the constitution-making and electoral process is high; and disruption and interference with citizens’ freedoms of assembly, association and expression remain entrenched.

  4. On 19 February 2024, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan released a press release upon the conclusion of its visit to South Sudan. The Commission emphasized the need to establish a unified national army and transitional justice processes to deal with the past and the root causes of the conflict. It noted that the constitutional processes under the 2018 Revitalized Agreement are not even close to completion. Furthermore, the Commission's investigations have found that the violence and gross human rights violations continue with impunity. The Commissioners reported about their travel to the Greater Pibor Administrative Area and Jonglei State. There, women and children continue to be abducted in violent attacks along ethnic lines. Many abductees are held hostage, subjected to forced marriage, and suffer brutal abuse, rape, sexual slavery and trafficking. The Commission welcomed South Sudan's ratification of several core UN human rights treaties on 5 February. It noted that "implementing the obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) would open civic and political space."

  5. On 9 October 2023, OHCHR provided an oral update to the HRC on technical assistance. It noted that extrajudicial executions carried out by South Sudanese security forces remained a grave concern. Women and girls continued to be subjected to sexual violence, especially during outbreaks of clashes, and the alleged perpetrators in most of the cases were yet to be investigated or prosecuted. Human rights defenders – including political activists and journalists – continued to be at high risk of harassment, threats, arbitrary detention and physical attacks. OHCHR noted its support for South Sudan accession to human rights treaties, drafting of bills, functioning of the Investigation Committee, reform on detention and advising and training of law enforcement officials, strengthening the capacity of the national human rights commission, strengthening capacity to implement recommendations of the HRC Universal Periodic Review, and providing training for civil society organizations and media outlets.

  6. During the dialogue on the same oral update, UNICEF recalled that the UN verified 466 grave violations against children in 2022, with actual numbers much higher.

  7. On 6 October 2023, South Sudan canceled a visit by the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons. The Special Rapporteur, Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur, noted that the Government had cited the recent report by the South Sudan Commission on Human Rights on civic space, and the UN Secretary-General’s report on reprisals (titled “Cooperation with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights”). For further details on reprisals, see A/HRC/54/61 paras 107-108 and in its Annex I paras 102-106.

  8. On 28 June 2023, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking presented her report on her visit to the country. She was particularly concerned by the prevalence of trafficking in children and highlighted the very limited assistance and protection available to trafficked persons. She noted that it is critical that transitional justice mechanisms and reparations address conflict-related trafficking, including recruitment and use of children and trafficking for purposes of child and forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labour and forced criminality [A/HRC/53/28/Add.2, para 92].

  9. On 3-4 April 2023 the Human Rights Council adopted two competing resolutions on South Sudan. Resolution 52/43 on technical assistance and capacity-building was adopted without a vote. It was tabled by the African Group. Resolution 52/1 extended the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) and was adopted by a vote of 19-9 with 19 abstentions, demonstrating consistently diminishing opposition to the resolution since 2021.

    1. In the first resolution (52/43), the HRC applauded South Sudan for positive developments and recalled that the Government has the primary responsibility to protect the population from all human rights violations, while noting the challenges in this regard. Among other things, it called for the international community and OHCHR to support the development of capacity for transitional justice, investigation and prosecution of alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law [OP 7 and OP8(a-b)].

    2. In the second resolution (52/1), the HRC expressed disappointment at the failure to implement the commitments made in the Revitalized Agreement, which resulted in the decision made on 22 February 2023 by the parties to extend the transitional period of the Revitalized Agreement by two years [PP10]. This included the establishment of the transitional justice mechanisms envisioned by chapter V of the Revitalized Agreement, namely the commission for truth, reconciliation and healing, the compensation and reparation authority and the hybrid court for South Sudan [PP12]. Justifying the Commission's mandate renewal, the HRC noted that there remains a need for a mechanism for the monitoring of, reporting on and collecting of evidence regarding alleged violations and abuses of human rights in South Sudan [OP10]. The HRC expressed alarm at the reports documented by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan of ongoing human rights violations and abuses by both State and non-State actors, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, pervasive sexual and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, excessive restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in South Sudan, and in particular at reports of a continuing culture of impunity and lack of justice or accountability for alleged violations and abuses [PP15 and see also OP5]. The HRC noted that the 35% quota for women in executive positions mandated by the Revitalized Agreement has not yet been met and stressed that the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of women in public and political life are key to sustaining peace in South Sudan [PP17]. The HRC also noted the urgent need to open the civic and political space, to adopt an election law, to establish an inclusive electoral system and to advance an inclusive permanent constitution-making process to create the environment for free, fair and inclusive elections [PP20 and see also OP6]. The HRC noted with concern that attacks on humanitarian workers continue unabated in South Sudan [PP27].

  10. On 3 April 2023, ahead of the adoption of the Human Rights Council's resolution to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS), South Sudan expressed its objection to the extension of the Commission's mandate, the expansion of the mandate into monitoring implementation of the Revitalized Agreement, and the UK’s proposal "Human Rights and Accountability Architecture Schedule for Action."


Information familiar to the Security Council [918 words]

Reporting by UNMISS

  1. On 13 February 2024, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, Mr. Nicholas Haysom, stated that the conflict was causing real harm to communities as well as inhibiting an environment of open political competition, which would be a vital part of a healthy democracy. The inter-communal violence threatens the possibility of elections. It undermines the environment within which elections can be held and significantly increases the possibility that elections would lead to a resumption or trigger fresh outbreak of violence. He welcomed the Government's decision to allocate funding to the institutions necessary for the elections, but noted that they were still waiting for the funding. In an earlier statement he noted that it was evident that the electoral and constitution-making commissions lack the necessary resources, including office space and equipment. In relation to resources, it is worth recalling the statement by the US in the Security Council on 14 December 2023. She said that when the transitional Government has done so little to prepare for elections, providing additional funding for these elections sends absolutely the wrong message. Detailing all relevant expenses, she noted that the transitional Government had sufficient oil money to fund them in a timely manner. In contrast, China called for more international assistance and non-interference in the country's management of its oil money. The Head of UNMISS also acknowledged (at his briefing of 13 February) that there were legitimate concerns about the preparedness of key institutions, particularly the state security apparatus. More generally, the technical arrangements needed to have free, fair, and credible elections have not yet been put in place. In addition, there is urgency to tackle fundamental questions, such as whether and how refugees would vote, how many days would elections take and whether they will be national, parliamentary or both. The Head of UNMISS would also like to see the political parties agree on a code of conduct and respecting it.

  2. In its report of 18 October 2023 (S/2023/784), UNMISS noted receiving continued reports of restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, activists, members of opposition political parties and other individuals expressing views critical of or divergent from those of the Government [para 21]. UNMISS further noted that progress in effectively addressing conflict-related sexual or gender-based violence has been limited, while such violence remains prevalent [paras 26 and 38].

  3. On 11 September 2023, UNMISS emphasized in its report S/2023/657 the importance of a political and civic space, as well as a secure environment, which are preconditions for the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections. With the initiation of electoral campaigning in parts of the country, it is imperative that all political parties have equal opportunities, access and rights, by law, to mobilize political support. I also remind the parties of their commitment to the gender provisions of the Revitalized Agreement [para 100]. Further to the concerns about the political and civic space, as well as security, the report detailed concerns about inter-communal violence, allegations of extrajudicial killings and sexual violence, as well as the need to strengthen rule of law institutions [para 103]. The deteriorating situation in the Sudan also has an extremely concerning impact, with an overwhelming influx of refugees and returnees into South Sudan [para 104]. In addition, South Sudan remains a dangerous environment for aid workers [para 105].

Independent assessment: Internally displaced persons

  1. On 4 December 2023, the Secretary-General released a report of the independent assessment, led by Tamrat Samuel (S/2023/955), with a focus on the Mission's protection of civilians strategy. The assessment expressed a concern that the problem of internally displaced persons was far from being resolved. The number of internally displaced persons in South Sudan, which has an estimated population of slightly over 11 million, stands at 2.3 million, while 2.4 million South Sudanese have been made refugees. The assessment included recommendations in this regard [paras 88 and 96].

Women, Peace and Security - IEG visit

  1. The Security Council's Informal Expert Group on WPS visited the country in early December. Switzerland reported to the Security Council that during the IEG's visit to Juba and Wau in early December, its members received reports of intimidation of politically active women. UN Women, as the IEG Secretariat, reported that the Government of South Sudan has made several commitments in line with the WPS agenda, including to launch soon its second generation National Action Plan on WPS (SSNAP-2) for 2023-2027. While the peace agreement includes a 35% quota for women in all executive and transitional institutions and processes, this quota has not been met in most of the commissions set up to implement the peace agreement, or the current government and parliament. In the bodies established most recently, women’s representation stands at 32% of the National Constitution Review Commission, 22% of the National Election Committee, and 40% in the Political Parties Council. Only one of South Sudan’s ten Governors is a woman. During the IEG's meeting with the Head of UNMISS, he highlighted the need to fulfill the 35% affirmative action, address impunity for conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence and ensure women’s meaningful participation in the electoral process and the constitution-making process. The IEG also met with women in civil society, the security sector and Parliament. They highlighted women’s meaningful participation in politics and all levels of the electoral process and the constitution-making process; the need for transitional justice and justice mechanisms to end impunity on gender-based violations; and the need to open up and protect civic space.


Positions of Members of the Security Council [430 words]

  1. On 14 December 2023, the Security Council was briefed by the Head of UNMISS. Members of the Council expressed concerns in a number of areas related to human rights, besides a shared concern for the protection of civilians. Hats off to Ecuador, the President of the Security Council in December, for ticking all the boxes. > Free and fair elections (US, UK, Malta, Japan, Switzerland, Ecuador) > Political and civic space (UK, Malta, Switzerland, Ecuador) > Women's political participation (Malta, Switzerland, Ecuador) > Sexual and gender-based violence (US, Malta, France, Ecuador) > Human rights violations and/or accountability (US, Malta, the A3, France, Ecuador) > Poverty and/or food insecurity (US, China, the A3, Switzerland, Ecuador) > Internally displaced persons and/or refugees (China, UK, Malta, Russia, Ecuador) > Safety of aid workers (UK, Japan, Russia, the A3, Switzerland, France, Ecuador) > Recruitment of children (Malta, Ecuador)

  2. On 9 October 2023, the Human Rights Council held a dialogue on the oral update by OHCHR on technical assistance and capacity-building. The EU stated that it was of the utmost importance to establish proper accountability mechanisms and emphasized the need for justice and accountability. France inquired about the assessment of the drafting of the constitution and preparations for the elections. Russia expressed its belief that progress on human rights would become possible after the final settlement of the internal conflict. That should be facilitated by reform of law enforcement and judicial structures, full-scale disarmament of the civilian population and social reintegration of ex-combatants. Sierra Leone welcomed OHCHR's technical assistance, stating that sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan depended on respect for human rights and addressing grievances. Capacity-building could help build a strong foundation for peace by addressing the root causes of conflict. The UK stated that while recognizing that technical assistance and capacity-building is a vital part of the wider international support needed, it is not the sole answer to addressing South Sudan's human rights, humanitarian and security situation. It needs to be accompanied by strong human rights scrutiny and accountability. The US expressed the wish to advance accountability and respect for human rights and was concerned that the failure to create the transitional justice mechanisms underscored a lack of political will in South Sudan to advance accountability efforts.

  3. Security Council Members that were HRC members voted as follows on Human Rights Council resolution 52/1 of 3 April 2023 on advancing human rights in South Sudan, led by the UK, Albania, Norway and the US. Yes: France, Japan (2022), Republic of Korea (2022), the UK and the US. No: Algeria, China and Russia (2022).

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