All South Sudanese must uphold human rights, official says

7 Dec 2012

All South Sudanese must uphold human rights, official says

7 December 2012 - The one thing South Sudanese must uphold was protection of human rights, which represented the liberation they sought, a senior government official said in Juba today.

"This is what the Sudan People's Liberation Army fought for... what we all fought for," said South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Chairperson Peter Lam Both.

Speaking at a human rights public forum discussion, Mr. Both said every South Sudanese must promote and respect the rights of other people in the country – nationals and foreigners.

The public forum was organized by the South Sudan Human Rights Commission in partnership with UNMISS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) ahead of Human Rights Day celebrations across the country on 10 December 2012.

"South Sudanese must sit together to resolve their own internal problems," said Mr. Both. "That will be the starting point to ensure that all human rights will be respected."

Commenting on participants' statements that rights were being abused in terms of land ownership, tribalism in employment, overcrowded prisons and crimes committed by foreigners, Mr. Both said South Sudanese must stop playing blame games to promote human rights.

"South Sudan is one country with 10 states," he said. "Doesn't the law say that every citizen has a right to live and work in any state? Why is it not happening in practice? It is not just some foreigners who are violating human rights. We know that some of our own people are doing it."

Several participants also urged the commission to ensure that information is shared with people, so that they would become well acquainted with the law and human rights.

"The people at this forum are already converted – that is why they are here. We need to get the message out to those who are still unaware," said Mr. Both.

A human rights activist also serving as the Executive Director of Generation Agency for Development and Transformation said it was imperative for the commission to also ensure that human rights promoters and defenders were protected.

"As the voice of the voiceless, we need protection," said Christopher Taban. "Let us have the same spirit that we had when we voted in the referendum. We must not have history repeat itself... or have old wine in a new bottle."

Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Anei Arop said the commission was already working to disseminate information at all levels "from the highest profile offices in the country to the grassroots".

"(That) ... we have just come from war can no longer be an excuse," he said. "We know that not all our people have access to radio and so we are going ... to take the messages to them, with the support of our partners."

UNMISS Human Rights Section chief Richard Bennett said UNMISS "places human rights issues at the centre of our mandate and will continue to support the Human Rights Commission, the government and civil society in strengthening the relevant institutions and upholding human rights".