National legislators attend human rights workshop in Juba

27 Jun 2013

National legislators attend human rights workshop in Juba

27 June 2013 - Since attaining independence, South Sudan has made important strides in establishing the necessary institutions for responding to the human rights needs of its people, UNMISS Human Rights Director Ibrahim Wani said in Juba today.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop for National Legislative Assembly members, Mr. Wani said that enshrining a Bill of Rights in the country's Transitional Constitution, as well as establishing a functioning South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) and specialized committees in the national and state legislative assemblies, were some of the more positive developments.

"Despite the progress... a need still exists for strengthening the actual implementation of these measures in the everyday life of the average South Sudanese," he said.

Mr. Wani, who is also the representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in South Sudan, noted that the legislators' work in passing laws and overseeing government was critical in helping to ensure respect for human rights. As such, it was important for the lawmakers to keep abreast of developments in the field, he added.

"Recent human rights reports seem to suggest that the situation is deteriorating," he said. "I want to underscore that facing a challenge is not defeat. The challenges faced by South Sudan are not unique. Governments around the world struggle to give full effect to human rights."

National Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker Daniel Awet Akot said that although the government did not deny that there had been human rights violations, it was important that those who made recommendations also understand the difficulties faced in their implementation.

"We are listening to these reports and learning from past mistakes," he said. "We also need to educate our people. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to engage in constitutional dialogue to better understand the issues on the ground."

Outlining human rights challenges in the country, SSHRC Deputy Chairperson Biel Jock Thich said he appreciated the efforts of parliamentarians and called for greater cooperation between his commission and the legislative branch of government.

"A lot needs to be done to enact laws and review existing ones," he said. "While the Commission considers promotion and protection of human rights central to effective delivery of basic services ... restoration of security is a prerequisite to development."