Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council

Re: Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, write to urge your delegation to sup­port the extension of the full mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (hereafter “Commission” or “CHRSS”) at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council’s (“HRC” or “Coun­­cil”) 49th session (28 Feb­­ruary-1 April 2022).

The CHRSS is the only mechanism tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of vio­la­tions of inter­na­tional humanitarian and human rights law with a view to ensuring accountability and ad­dres­sing human rights and transitional justice issues in South Sudan from a holistic perspective. Its work remains vital as the country prepares for elections in 2023, violence remains per­va­sive, and South Sudanese civil society faces intensifying repression.

In 2021, the Council adopted two resolutions focused on South Sudan. For the first time, the reso­lution extending the mandate of the CHRSS[1] was not consensual. At the request of the South Suda­nese Government, a vote took place. On the same day, a second resolution, focused on technical assistance and capacity-building,[2] was adopted. While this disappointing outcome, which results in the hold­ing of twice as many debates at the Council’s 48th and 49th sessions, should not be considered a precedent, we stress that any merger in 2022 should not happen at the expense of a strong inves­tigative mandate.

Victims should have the opportunity for justice for international crimes committed. The continuation of the CHRSS’s mandate is the best means to safeguard future accountability in the absence of con­temporary criminal prosecutions and at least until the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) is func­tional.

With resolution 46/23, the Council reaffirmed the importance of the mandate of the CHRSS and ack­now­led­ged that “demon­s­trable progress in key human rights issues of concern is critical to any future change to the mandate of the [CHRSS].”[3] Unfortunately, progress on key human rights issues of concern has not been reported by the CHRSS, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), or other independent actors, including in the framework of the second track, in rela­tion to resolution 46/29.[4]

Our organisations have continued to monitor the situation with concern, as authorities embarked on a new wave of repression against peaceful protesters,[5] continued harassing civil society actors,[6] and carried out at least 52 extrajudicial executions.[7] Social and economic rights are in a dire state and embezzlement of public funds fuels violations of these rights.[8] Impunity and high levels of violence persist, including a five month-long attack by armed groups against civilians in Western Equatoria state that killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands.[9]

When they signed the 2015 Peace Agreement, and more recently the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agree­ment for Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), parties committed to ensuring justice for crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses. The Afri­can Union and the Inter­govern­men­tal Authority on Development (IGAD) sup­por­ted this ap­proach. Afri­can human rights bo­dies have also called on parties to im­ple­ment Chap­ter V of the Agree­ment,[10] in which the parties committed to establishing a hybrid court, a truth commission, and a com­pensation and reparation authority. Despite obligations and numerous commitments and pro­mises by the parties, none of the mechanisms has been established.

*   *   *

This is not the time to change the Council’s approach, or to relax its scrutiny. The mandate of the CHRSS remains critical and should continue until such a point as demonstrable progress has been made against human rights benchmarks and accountability, and based on an assessment of risk factors of further vio­la­tions. In this regard, the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes,[11] with its risk fac­tors, is a key tool.

The Council should empower the Commission to continue its work under all aspects of its man­­date: inves­tiga­tion, collection and preservation of evi­dence, monitoring, re­por­­ting, technical cooperation, and advice on transitional justice. Until the Hybrid Court for South Sudan is fully operational and functional, the Council should ensure the rene­wal of the mandate of the CHRSS to secure the collec­tion and preservation of evidence of serious crimes committed since 2013, on behalf of victims and with a view to transferring such documentation to independent and competent judicial authorities in the future.

Any technical assistance or capacity building requested by South Sudan can be, and already is, offered as part of the annual resolution extending the CHRSS’s mandate. However, a purely technical assis­tance and capacity-building focus, as proposed in resolution 46/29 of 2021, would be unsui­ta­ble to tackle South Sudan’s many and serious human rights challenges and would risk further emboldening those who perpetrate the most serious crimes.

In this context, we reiterate previous civil society recommendations[12] and urge the Council to continue its meaningful ac­tion on South Su­dan by extending the CHRSS’s mandate in full for a further year.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.

Sincerely,

  1. Action 54, South Sudan
  2. Action for Community Education and Development (ACEDO South Sudan)
  3. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  4. African Child Care Network (ACCN)
  5. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  6. Amnesty International
  7. Anika Women Association (AWA) – South Sudan
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)
  10. Burkinabè Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
  11. Burkinabè Women Human Rights Defenders Network (RB-FDDH)
  12. Burundian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
  13. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  14. Center for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice (CGPJ) – South Sudan
  15. Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) – South Sudan
  16. Center for Reproductive Rights
  17. Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)
  18. Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRD) – South Sudan
  19. Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) – Cameroon
  20. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  21. Coalition béninoise des défenseurs des droits humains (CDDH-Bénin)
  22. Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  23. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan
  24. Community Empowerment for Rehabilitation and Development (CEFoRD) – South Sudan
  25. Community Initiative for Partnership and Development (CIPAD)
  26. Community Initiative Support Program (CISP) – South Sudan
  27. Community Organization for Peer Educators (COPE) – South Sudan
  28. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  29. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
  30. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
  31. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme
  32. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  33. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
  34. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network Uganda
  35. Humanitarian Development Organization (HDO) – South Sudan
  36. Human Rights House Foundation
  37. Human Rights Watch
  38. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  39. International Commission of Jurists
  40. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  41. International Service for Human Rights
  42. Islamic Development and Relief Agency (IDRA) – South Sudan
  43. Itkwa Women Empowerment Organization (IWEO) – South Sudan
  44. Ivorian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CIDDH)
  45. Joint Border Peace Development Agency (JBPDA) – South Sudan
  46. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  47. Ma’Mara Sakit Village
  48. Men Engage Gender Equality Network (MEGEN) – South Sudan
  49. National Press Club South Sudan (NPC-SS)
  50. Nigerien Human Rights Defenders Networks (RNDDH/NHRDN)
  51. Nile Initiative for Development (NID)
  52. Nile Sisters Development Initiative Organization (NSDIO)
  53. Pan African Peacemakers Alliance (PAPA)
  54. People’s Demands Organization (PEDO) – South Sudan
  55. Protection International Africa
  56. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
  57. Réseau de solidarité des défenseurs des droits humains – DRC
  58. Rights for Peace
  59. Rural and Urban Development Agency (RUDA) – South Sudan
  60. Safe Orphans Charity Organizations (SOCO) – South Sudan
  61. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
  62. South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SSANSA)
  63. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
  64. South Sudan Women Empowerment Network (SSWEN)
  65. SOWETO Community Based Organization
  66. Support Peace Initiative Development Organization (SPIDO) – South Sudan
  67. The Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy (TAHURID)
  68. The Sentry
  69. Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS)
  70. Voices in Advocacy for Development – Uganda
  71. War Widow and Orphans Association (WWOA) – South Sudan
  72. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
  73. Wider Aid and Development Agency (WADA) – South Sudan
  74. Women Action for and with Society (WAS) – South Sudan
  75. Women Empowerment Entrepreneurship Coaching (WEEC) – South Sudan
  76. Women Training and Promotion (WOTAP) – South Sudan
  77. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  78. Yei Women Peace Forum
  79. Youth Forum for Social Justice – Uganda
  80. Youth Vision South Sudan (YVSS)

[1] HRC resolution 46/23, available at https://undocs.org/A/HRC/RES/46/23

[2] HRC resolution 46/29, available at https://undocs.org/A/HRC/RES/46/29

[3] Resolution 46/23, operative paragraph 8.

[4] See Annex.

[5] Amnesty International, “South Sudan: End new wave of repression against peaceful protesters,” 3 September 2021 (accessed 25 January 2022).

[6] Amnesty International et al., “South Sudan: Unfreeze civil society and political activist’s bank accounts,” 19 November 2021 (AFR 65/5017/2021),(accessed 25 January 2022).

[7] UNMISS, “UNMISS deeply concerned at spate of extra-judicial executions”, 26 July 2021, peacekeeping.un.org/en/unmiss-deeply-concerned-spate-of-extra-judicial-executions; UN Security Council, “Situation in South Sudan: Report of the Secretary-General,” 9 September 2021, UN Doc. S/2021/784., para 73; UN Security Council, “Situation in South Sudan: Report of the Secretary-General,” 7 December 2021, UN Doc. S/2021/1015., para 67; Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Disturbing wave of extrajudicial executions on the rise in South Sudan’s Warrap State – UN experts note,” 29 July 2021, (accessed 11 January 2022). At the time of writing, the UN had publicly reported on 52 extra-judicial executions. It is likely that the actual number is higher.

[8] OHCHR, “South Sudanese political elites illicitly diverting millions of US dollars, undermining core human rights and stability – UN experts note,” 23 September 2021, (accessed 11 January 2022). See Conference Room Paper on human rights violations and related economic crimes in the Republic of South Sudan, 23 September 2021, UN Doc. A/HRC/48/CRP.3, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoHSouthSudan/Pages/Index.aspx

[9] Amnesty International, “South Sudan: Survivors describe killings, mass displacement and terror amid fighting in Western Equatoria,” 9 December 2021, (accessed 25 January 2022).

[10] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) strongly condemned continued violations and stressed the need to opera­tio­nalise R-ARCSS provisions, in particular Chapter V (see African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR/Res.428 (LXV) 2019).

[11] See https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/about-us/Doc.3_Framework%20of%20Analysis%20for%20Atrocity%20Crimes_EN.pdf

[12] See in particular DefendDefenders et al., “Extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan,” 5 February 2021, (accessed 25 January 2022).


Civic space inSouth Sudan is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor