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South Sudan: UN experts urge political leaders to prioritise peaceful democratic transition 

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice 

Geneva: February 19, 2023 

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan stressed the need for the country’s political leaders to seize the opportunity to reset the country towards peace, democratic transformation and prosperity. 

The statement came during the Commission’s visit to South Sudan from February 14-18, after nearly five years of delays in the implementation of the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement. 

Sexual violence and impunity: 

“We always appreciate the opportunity to visit South Sudan, and to have meaningful discussions with a range of people, to learn more about the human rights situation and prospects for the credible conclusion of this transition period,” stated Commissioner Barney Afako. 

 “Our Commission has documented human rights violations in South Sudan for many years, but we were still shocked by the sexual violence and continuing attacks against civilians,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham. “The accounts from survivors are horrific. Many people the Commission has met have experienced attacks over and over again. At the same time, people responsible for crimes walk free.” 

The commissioners visited the capital, Juba, and Upper Nile state, where the United Nations runs a Protection of Civilians (POC) site that is struggling to accommodate tens of thousands of new arrivals fleeing violence. 

Complicated humanitarian efforts: 

Organizations and agencies providing humanitarian support in the areas reported their struggle to provide the needed assistance to the large number of people seeking shelter, adding that the limited funding and unsafe supply routes have complicated humanitarian efforts. 

The visit included meetings with survivors of human rights violations, members of civil society, senior ministers, government officials, civilian and military judges, diplomats, UN agencies and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. 

Victims and survivors of the violence in Upper Nile told the commissioners harrowing stories of vicious attacks, in which frightened families hid in the bushed for days and had to walk miles to reach safety. 

Limited time: 

The Commission stressed that there is a limited time for the success of the political transition process, through the establishment of a unified national army, which began in 2022; the drafting of a constitution to be completed before elections; and the establishment of three transitional justice mechanisms, none of which have been implemented despite the preparatory work. International interest has waned and needs to be reinvigorated to support these processes. 

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