Women and girls continue to be gang raped and survivors have been described as “zombies, physically and emotionally dead”, according to the UN Human Rights Commission in the world’s youngest nation.
Monitoring the peace In an alert, Commission President Yasmin Sooka said it was essential for the international community to monitor the country’s peace agreement, along with other reforms, including those to the armed forces and the constitution.
Transitional justice bodies are also urgently needed, according to an agreement reached four years ago by the country’s government, the Commission noted.
“Without these steps, we are likely to see millions more South Sudanese displaced or crossing borders, creating havoc for neighboring countries and aid agencies,” said Ms Sooka.
Under South Sudan’s 2018 peace deal, elections were postponed until the end of 2024.
Death threats But conditions must be peaceful for a national election to take place and South Sudanese “who have questioned to the government or exposed atrocities have received death threats, have been detained or tortured”, explained the human rights commission.
The transitional justice bodies proposed and agreed upon in 2018 have been created, namely the Truth, Reconciliation and Healing Commission, the Hybrid Court or the Compensation and Reparation Authority.
The independent rights panel, which was established by the Human Rights Council in 2016, said that “women raped by the armed forces while collecting firewood are threatened with death if they report it”.
Police are often too ill-equipped to do their job; “They cannot arrest a soldier who is better armed and protected,” the Commission said in a recent statement.
Justice denied In another example of the lack of justice for survivors, rights researchers noted that in Unity State and rural western Equatoria , “there is no formal court to deal with serious crimes like murder and rape, only customary courts.” During a visit this month to Western Equatoria, the Commission ón described seeing “very young girls with babies around military bases” and hearing “multiple accounts of soldiers from both government and opposition forces abducting women.” Speaking at a Global Survivors Forum in New York over the weekend, organized by Nobel Peace Prize winners Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, to examine best practices for sexual violence reparations, Commissioner of Inquiry Andrew Clapham said : “Survivors in South Sudan, particularly those of repeated incidents of sexual violence, tell us over and over again that criminal responsibility is the only way to ensure their security and peace for the country.
That is why establishing the Hybrid Court is non-negotiable.”