The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan today concluded its tenth visit to the country, from 2 to 5 August.
Comprised of Yasmin Sooka (Chairperson), Andrew Clapham and Barney Afako, the Commissioners were following up on findings and recommendations of their latest report, entitled “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South Sudan.”
“The details of the report are harrowing to read, yet we see it is as important to stay true to the survivors’ accounts, and to play our role in conveying these onward to their fellow South Sudanese, the Government of South Sudan as well as the international community,” said Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission.
Published in March 2022 in Geneva, the report details the widespread and systematic character of sexual violence, drawing on several years of interviews with survivors, witnesses and their families, conducted in South Sudan and also in refugee settings. Their testimonies relay the harrowing experiences of women and girl survivors, illustrating the lasting impacts on their lives and on the social fabric of South Sudanese communities. A shorter and more accessible version has also been developed and translated for dissemination in the country.
“We felt it was vital to visit South Sudan and to share our findings and recommendations on conflict-related sexual violence in the country. We are grateful to have been able to visit and to engage with key stakeholders,” said Sooka.
The report finds that all armed groups have been involved in sexual violence, and that despite the signing of action plans to address it, and some nascent justice efforts, the State’s overall response has so far not nearly matched the scale and severity of the crisis.
“We reiterate our call on the Government to publicly commit to a ‘zero tolerance policy’ to sexual violence, and to immediately signal genuine intentions by standing down and even prosecuting senior officials known to be perpetrators of sexual violence,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham.
The experts met with Government officials, representatives of civil society, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN system as well as members of the diplomatic community. The three Commissioners held a press conference in Juba on the morning of 4 August, after which they participated in a day-long dialogue hosted by civil society organizations. Entitled “What Next on the Commission’s Recommendations and the South Sudan Action Plan for Armed Forces in Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence,” the event brought together stakeholders including from civil society, government, armed forces and the judiciary. The dialogue was an opportunity for the Commission to present its recommendations, hear from stakeholders, discuss strategies and identify next steps.
“While the focus of our discussions this week has been on crimes taking place in relation to the country’s conflicts, this dire situation is set against a backdrop of broader patterns of impunity for serious crimes in South Sudan, particularly against women and girls who continue to carry a low status in society,” remarked Barney Afako. “Critical nation-building opportunities, particularly the long-awaited process to develop a national constitution, must be fully inclusive and participatory so as to establish a lasting framework to address drivers of conflict and the dehumanization of the country’s women and girls,” he added.
Background on the Commission
The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. It was first established in March 2016, and its mandate has since been renewed each year. The Commission’s latest report was published as a Conference Room Paper at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 21 March 2022.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).