Human rights experts call for independent body to investigate conflict related crimes in South Sudan
“An independent mechanism is needed to immediately assist in investigating violations in South Sudan, in advance of the establishment of the hybrid court,” a United Nations-mandated Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, has said.
The three-member commission, chaired by Yasmin Sooka, made this recommendation at the end of a three-day workshop on transitional justice held in Ethiopia.
According to a statement, the Commission said that the Human Rights Council should immediately establish a specialized mechanism to map and document conflict related sexual violence in South Sudan with a specific emphasis on command and superior responsibility.
“Too many of those who say ‘justice should only come later’ really mean ‘justice should never come at all,” said Yasmin Sooka adding, “it is imperative to start collecting evidence of violations immediately, even before the hybrid court is established.”
For his part, Commissioner Ken Scott said investigations need to start now so that the hybrid court has cases to hear.
“Critical evidence is being lost every day as witnesses are killed or disappear, as memories fade, and physical evidence degrades”, he noted.
When the Commission visited South Sudan in December 2016 it said that sexual violence had reached epic proportions and required urgent attention.
The Commission was established in March 2016, by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and tasked with, among other mandates, monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in South Sudan and making recommendations for its improvement.
On 14 March 2017, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan will present its report on the human rights situation and make recommendations on accountability to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“We will be calling for an international, independent, investigative mechanism for South Sudan to be set up,” said Ms. Sooka. “It should be well-resourced to collect evidence on the ground, focusing primarily on the most recent serious crimes.”
Chapter five of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan calls for the establishment of a hybrid court for South Sudan. That court is to investigate and prosecute individuals bearing the responsibility for violations of international law.