UNMISS holds workshop on transitional justice with government officials and civil society reps in Aweil
NORTHERN BAHR-EL-GHAZAL - Can the Chapter Five of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement be implemented? Can the Hybrid Court for South Sudan be established? And, what exactly is transitional justice, the topic addressed in the crucial Chapter Five?
These were some of the key questions debated in Aweil when the United Nations Mission in South Sudan invited 56 people, twelve of whom women, for a discussion on some of the arguably most sensitive and as of yet outstanding issues of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.
“These are key organs embodied in the transitional justice. For instance, the Compensation and Reparation Authority is part of the peace agreement for us to correct wrongdoings of the past. It is a process which should lead the way for our country to start a new chapter, one of durable peace and accountability,” said Isaac Deng, an advocate present at the event.
Apart from the Compensation and Reparation Authority, Mr. Deng referred to the establishment of two other vital entities enshrined in the peace agreement: a functional Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing and a Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
The latter is set to be comprised of national and international legal professionals with the task of investigating violations of international law and, crucially, prosecuting individuals suspected of such crimes. Together with the other two, these institutions, and their work, will form what is often referred to as transitional justice.
“It is an essential component of the peace deal. In recognition of that, the peacekeeping mission strives to support the mechanisms and processes that will lead to the creation of these entities,” said Human Rights Officer Alfred Zulu, pointing out that this training on the provisions of Chapter Five was the first of its kind to be held in the state.
Apart from government officials at different levels, traditional chiefs and civil society organizations also participated in the workshop. Together, they discussed ways of creating structures in their state to facilitate the fulfillment of the stipulated transitional justice mechanisms. They agreed that the State Legislative Assembly should enact legislation to make this possible, but also to ensure the provision of social services to those most in need to avoid conflicts and to inform people at the grassroots level of the content of Chapter Five and the rest of the peace accord.
As those in attendance delved deeper into what is required for transitional justice to happen, one fundamental right of every citizen became clear: the right to get together and to talk about the need for truth and accountability.
“Freedom of expression is vital because obscuring or preventing facts from surfacing, for example by interfering with the work of journalists, has a truly negative impact on our society,” said Deng William Tong, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission in Northern-Bahr-El-Ghazal State.
Ataklti Hailu, Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Aweil, was on the same wavelength.
“Speaking the truth means that it must not be perverted. Shying away from uncomfortable facts and hiding information which does not benefit you is not in the best interest of the nation. Without the truth, there can be no healing, which is an important step towards peace and social harmony,” he said.
Focusing on the creation of a Compensation and Reparation Authority, female peace ambassador Margaret Aliai summarized the next step to be taken.
“After this training, I know that a seven-member committee is to be formed, with at least three of its members being women. Once established, this committee will receive applications from people who have lost their properties or anything else they believe they should be compensated for,” she said.