10 December 2013 - Recent convictions of 39 Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers for violations of human rights in Jonglei State are a sign that South Sudan is moving in the right direction to promote and protect human rights, UNMISS Chief Hilde F. Johnson said in Juba today.
Speaking during celebrations of International Human Rights Day at the Nyakuron Cultural Centre, under the theme “Over 20 Years Fighting for our Rights: Successes and Challenges”, Ms. Johnson said there is a need to see strong leadership from the government.
“President Salva Kiir’s repeated calls for accountability are an encouraging sign, as is the presence of Vice President James Wani Igga here today,” she said. “There are still many challenges, but much has been achieved in the country since independence.”
Among these achievements, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General listed the ratification of eight core human rights conventions, as well as the recent bills passed by parliament to ratify the Child Rights Convention and the Convention against Torture.
“We look forward to the ratification of more acts,” she said. “We must note, though, that beyond signing, conventions need to be implemented.”
Ms. Johnson said the entire UN family would continue to support South Sudan in addressing challenges like interferences in freedom of expression and the media, prolonged and arbitrary detention and violations by armed forces. She added that human rights training for SPLA is a top priority for UNMISS.
“All human rights for all must be made reality for every South Sudanese. This is what your struggle was about,” she said. “It is no longer about tearing down walls (of discrimination and injustice), but about building solid foundations. Make (human rights) the corner stone of your new nation.”
The Acting Chairperson of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission Biel Jock Thich said the government needed to address property marginalization and inadequate social service delivery, and to harmonize customary law with statutory law and international standards.
The government is committed to promoting and protecting human rights in the country, said Vice President Igga, pledging that the commission would receive all the finances and support needed to achieve this.
“I want to assure you that there is strong political will to uphold accountability and transparency,” said Mr. Igga. “The new team (cabinet) is also determined to ensure that we achieve participatory development and security for all.”
Mr. Igga stated that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has increased the proportion of females in public positions from 25 to 35 per cent.
“Women were very important in our struggle for independence,” he said. “We must empower them politically and economically so that they can enjoy their rights… treat them like human beings, not objects.”