Continued fighting in South Sudan must not derail justice for crimes committed during the deadly conflict that began in December 2013, said Amnesty International and FIDH in a joint briefing published today.
The organizations are calling on the African Union (AU) Commission and the South Sudan government to urgently establish the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS).
“Thousands have been killed, women raped, entire villages destroyed, and humanitarian personnel attacked. But as world attention has focused on ending the fighting, accountability for violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity has been put on the back burner,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.
“Justice must not be delayed any further. Fresh violations should give added impetus to efforts to form the Hybrid Court.”
Renewed violence underscores the urgency of bringing to account those responsible for crimes under international law committed during South Sudan’s armed conflict, said Amnesty International and FIDH today, a year on from a faltering peace agreement.
The peace accord was signed on 17 August 2015 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. It requires the African Union (AU) to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity since the conflict began in December 2013.
“Last month’s return to violence underscores the need to seek accountability for the horrendous crimes committed and should bolster, not undermine, the pursuit of justice,” said Elizabeth Deng, Amnesty International’s South Sudan Researcher.
“The African Union must stop dragging its feet and take concrete steps to set up the court, including by immediately collecting and preserving evidence before it is lost and witnesses’ memories of events fade.”
Amid a fresh outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, a new report by Amnesty International reveals the true horror suffered by civilians at the hands of government forces after the August 2015 peace agreement was signed.
“We are still running”: War crimes in Leer, South Sudan, details how South Sudanese government forces and allied militia hunted down and killed civilians, raped and abducted women, stole cattle and torched villages in opposition strongholds in Leer County, Unity State, between August and December 2015.
“These war crimes and other abuses committed across the country are the result of ongoing impunity that continues to fuel conflict in South Sudan, as seen in recent weeks of renewed fighting,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.
South Sudanese security forces are deliberately blocking people from leaving the country in violation of their right to freedom of movement, Amnesty International can reveal.
The organisation has received reports from two charter companies that National Security Service officers have ordered them not to carry South Sudanese nationals, particularly men. It has also been told by an NGO that one of its South Sudanese staff was prevented from boarding a flight to Entebbe, Uganda.
“This arbitrary conduct by the South Sudanese security forces is totally unacceptable. South Sudan must respect people’s right to freedom of movement, including the right to leave their own country,” said Elizabeth Deng, Amnesty International’s South Sudan Researcher.
“It is absolutely critical that both parties to the conflict do not obstruct safe passage of civilians fleeing to places of refuge both inside and outside of the country.”
Thousands of South Sudanese people have reportedly gathered at the country’s southern border seeking to enter into Uganda, but they are also being prevented from crossing over.
As a renewal of violence in South Sudan threatens to plunge the country back into full-scale civil war, Amnesty International has published a list of seven recommendations for the African Union, ahead of the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
From rhetoric to action lays out concrete steps leaders should take to guide the continent towards a culture that respects human rights, including in countries in the region that continue to be rocked by armed conflict.
“The latest horrific bloodshed in South Sudan demonstrates the urgent need for African leaders gathering in Kigali to take steps not only to resolve such conflicts but also to tackle their root causes,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Director, Research and Advocacy, Amnesty International.
South Sudan: Renewed clashes put civilians at risk, underline need for arms embargo
Warring parties in South Sudan must take all possible measures to protect civilians, including thousands of internally displaced people currently sheltering at UN bases, said Amnesty International as fighting continued to threaten civilian areas in the capital, Juba, today.
On 10 and 11 July, artillery shells landed in civilian neighbourhoods near Vice-President Riek Machar’s base in Jebel neighbourhood, injuring civilians and damaging their homes.
Renewed clashes between rival armed forces since 7 July have left hundreds of people dead and others displaced. Many civilians have not left their homes in days and are running out of food and water. Others have fled to churches and to UN displacement sites, which have themselves come under artillery fire in recent days.
People forced to eat human flesh and to disembowel dead bodies during South Sudan’s civil war that began in 2013 are among thousands suffering from trauma and psychological distress amid a chronic shortage of mental healthcare services in the country, Amnesty International said today as the country marks its fifth anniversary.
In a new report, “Our hearts have gone dark”: The mental health impact of South Sudan’s conflict, the organisation documents the psychological impact of mass killings, rape, torture, abductions and even a case of forced cannibalism, on the survivors and witnesses of these crimes.
“While the death and physical destruction caused by the conflict and preceding decades of war are immediately apparent, the psychological scars are less visible and neglected,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Dozens of detainees held in dire conditions in poorly ventilated metal shipping containers, fed only once or twice a week and given insufficient drinking water are at risk of death, warned Amnesty International today.
According to information obtained by the organisation, these conditions have apparently resulted in the deaths of multiple detainees at the Gorom detention site, located about 20km south of the capital Juba. Soldiers also periodically take them out of the containers and beat them.
“Detainees are suffering in appalling conditions and their overall treatment is nothing short of torture,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“This egregious disregard for human life and dignity must stop and for that to happen, the detention site should be immediately shut down until conditions are brought into compliance with human rights standards.”
Posted at 0300 GMT 15 April 2016
The South Sudanese government must end arbitrary detentions by the intelligence agency under which dozens of men are being held in squalid conditions without charge or trial sometimes for months on end, said Amnesty International days before opposition leader Riek Machar is due to return to the capital Juba as part of a peace deal requiring the parties to the conflict to form a national unity government.
Amnesty International has compiled a list of 35 men arbitrarily detained by the National Security Service (NSS) at its headquarters in the Jebel neighbourhood of Juba. Some of the detainees have been held for close to two years, without access to lawyers and with very limited access to their families and the outside world.
The list, published as part of a briefing Denied protection of the law: National Security Service detention in Juba, South Sudan, includes a former state governor, a 65-year-old university professor, a Ugandan aid worker and a journalist employed by UN-run Radio Miraya.
Posted at 0001hrs EAT 11 March 2016
South Sudanese government forces deliberately suffocated more than 60 men and boys who were detained in a shipping container before dumping their bodies in an open field in Leer town, Unity State, according to new evidence gathered by Amnesty International.
The organization’s researchers recently visited the grounds of the Comboni Catholic Church where the October 2015 killings took place. They also visited the site, about one kilometer from Leer town, where the bodies were dumped. They found the remains of many broken skeletons still strewn across the ground.The findings are contained in a new briefing South Sudan: 'Their Voices Stopped': Mass Killing in a Shipping Container in Leer.
“The arbitrary arrest, torture, and mass killing of these detainees is just one illustration of the South Sudanese government’s absolute disregard for the laws of war. Unlawful confinement, torture, willfully causing great suffering, and willfully killing are all war crimes,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.
By Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International. Follow Lama on Twitter @lamamfakih
The horrific attack in the UN-run Malakal Protection of Civilians camp, which claimed the lives of 18 civilians and began on 17 February, is a harsh reminder that despite the stuttering peace process, the situation for South Sudan remains desperate. These were just some of the latest atrocities in a conflict that has claimed countless lives and left 2.8 million facing crisis-level food insecurity.
I have just returned from South Sudan where I witnessed the impact of this man-made crisis first hand. Last week in Gondor village, Leer County, I met two women who were bent over a tarpaulin in front of their thatch-roofed home, preparing nothing but water lilies for dinner. They showed me how, by rubbing the dried flower seeds between their fingertips, they got at the “food” that they and so many thousands of others have subsisted on during the long months of war.
The UN Security Council must act immediately on the recommendations of its own Panel of Experts and enforce a comprehensive arms embargo to halt the flow of weapons into South Sudan, said Amnesty International today.
Following the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, Amnesty International has been lobbying for an arms embargo to help bring an end to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The fighting has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, with hundreds of thousands displaced.
“Last year’s peace agreement has proven insufficient to end atrocities and usher in accountability in South Sudan’s internal armed conflict. It should be a no-brainer for the international community to suspend the flow of arms where those arms are being used repeatedly to commit war crimes and to perpetuate grave and systematic human rights violations and abuses,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
The signing of a peace agreement today by the Government of South Sudan is an important and vital step in ending the violence and addressing the massive human suffering in South Sudan. Amnesty International reiterates its call for both parties to embrace an unequivocal commitment to accountability for atrocities committed during the conflict to ensure a lasting peace.
“Both sides must uphold the terms of the peace deal in order to ensure that immediate steps are taken to bring those responsible for crimes under international law to trial and provide full reparations to victims,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
By Alex Neve, Secretaty General, Amnesty International Canada
- returning from an Amnesty International research mission, May 2015
For four years, the Sudanese military has waged a terrifying war against its own people, in the besieged state of South Kordofan. As the fourth anniversary of this disgraceful human rights crisis approaches next month; it is long past time for the world to finally do something about it.Canada, home to a large Sudanese and South Sudanese community and once upon a time a key player in efforts to bring peace to Sudan, should put diplomatic, financial and humanitarian assets on the table to make sure that happens.
I have just wrapped up an Amnesty International mission that has been able to cross into the remote Nuba Mountain areas of South Kordofan that are controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army - North opposition.