Disregard for human rights obstacle to peace – UN

Disregard for human rights obstacle to peace – UN
UHRC logo. [Photo: Courtesy]

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has cited human rights violations as a major challenge to attainment of long lasting peace in South Sudan.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for UN Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, Ilze Brands Kehris said following her first official visit to South Sudan from May 17-19, 2022, she noted impunity for human rights violations remains one of the main obstacles to peace in South Sudan.

“Accountability for ongoing and past violations, together with their unequivocal public condemnations by the authorities, is critical to deterring future human rights violations,” she added.

She further said that the prevalence of sexual violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, should be a top priority for the government to address

Kehris added that promoting human rights was key to ending violence in South Sudan.

 “Promoting and protecting human rights in South Sudan will help reduce violence and pave the way for political stability, peace and development, including by providing opportunities for young people and future generations,” she stated.

 Kehris used her visit as an opportunity to reiterate the support of the United Nations to the people and Government of South Sudan in achieving peace and justice.

She also visited a site for Internally Displaced Persons and a center for the treatment of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

“I came to South Sudan to hear about the human rights situation first-hand from interlocutors on the ground, particularly regarding conflict-related sexual violence, accountability, impunity, transitional justice, as well as apparent shrinking civic and political space,” Kehris said.

She added that transitional justice mechanisms, which include both accountability and reconciliation mechanisms, are essential to help the country move forward.

Welcoming the consultations for the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH), Kehris stressed the need for them to be fully inclusive.

It has been a month since the president launched the establishment of the consultations for the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH). But the consultation has only started in Jonglei State and Pibor Administrative Area.

“Only meaningful public consultations, and providing safe space for expressing diverse views, will lead to results that adequately represent the views of the South Sudanese people,” Kehris emphasized.

The Assistant Secretary-General expressed her concerns over the risks faced by aid workers.

“Attacks against humanitarian workers are not only unacceptable human rights violations, they may also lead to catastrophic consequences for the country if humanitarian organizations assess that it is no longer safe for them to work in South Sudan,” she warned.

Kehris proceeded to state that she was deeply disturbed by report she received about consistent signs indicating a shrinking civic space, including press censorship, closure of media institutions, as well as arbitrary arrests and illegal detention of members of civil society organizations and human rights defenders, especially in a context of uncertainty regarding the upcoming elections.

“Respect for freedom of opinion and expression and a safe and enabling civic space is essential to guarantee free, fair, peaceful and credible elections,” she added.

 In her first-ever official visit to the country, Kehris met with the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar and other government officials, including the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministers of Justice, and the Minister of Defence.

She also met with representatives of civil society, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Country Team, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), the African Union (AU), local authorities in Yei, religious leaders and other local and international partners.