Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Geneva, 6 October 2021
I am pleased to update this Council on the human rights situation in South Sudan, in particular the technical assistance and capacity building provided to the Government pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 46/29. For a more comprehensive picture of the human rights situation in South Sudan, I also refer you to the statement delivered by the Deputy High Commissioner at the enhanced interactive dialogue under item four, earlier in this session.
Following this constructive dialogue, I reiterate my appreciation to the work of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and its crucial contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. I also welcome the Government’s intention, expressed during the enhanced dialogue, to work together with all stakeholders towards the full implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement and resolving human rights concerns.
I welcome the launch of the Technical Committee on the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH), held on 30 June 2021. The Human Rights Division, in cooperation with UNDP, will support the work of this Committee. Under the Peacebuilding fund (PBF) project “Breaking cycle of violence”, my Office and UNMISS also recruited a consultant, to design a coordinated and cohesive methodology to support future transitional justice mechanisms. We have also assisted civil society organisations including in organizing a panel discussion on “Enhancing Institutional Collaboration on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing in South Sudan” in June 2021.
I welcome the Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence, launched by the South Sudanese Government on 19 June. The Action Plan was developed with the support of the UNMISS Human Rights Division.
At the same time, I remain deeply concerned at the high levels of violence attributed to community-based militias, which continue to affect innocent civilians, threaten the country’s stability and endanger prospects for lasting peace.
During the second quarter of 2021, the UNMISS Human Rights Division continued to document a high number of additional abductions, including at least 133 women and children, largely connected to a surge of localized violence in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, in May.
I commend the continued efforts by UNMISS and other partners to ensure that all those abducted are released. In that regard, I welcome the release of at least 111 women and children since March, following negotiations amongst Murle, Dinka and Nuer community leaders. These ongoing efforts are crucial to building trust between communities and laying the groundwork for dialogue and sustainable peace.
I note with regret the recent restrictions by the Government on civic space and people’s rights to express their views and opinions. In an effort to strengthen and protect civic space and democratic dialogue, the UNMISS Human Rights Division has facilitated six capacity-building and sensitization activities since March, for a total of 214 national individuals, including 64 women. Participants included members of the Armed Forces, state government officials, the national media authority, union of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, amongst others. In June, for instance, a two-day roundtable discussion on combatting hate speech and incitement to violence, was held with the participation of the youth groups and state Human Rights commissioners of Lakes State.
I strongly encourage the Government to open up civic space and to refrain from restricting freedom of opinion and expression and the rights to peaceful assembly and association, which are essential to create conditions for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections and a vibrant democratic state.
Despite challenges linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, the UNMISS Human Rights Division has carried out a total of 245 capacity building activities on human rights for 6,169 people, including 2,285 women. Participants included National and State Government officials, political leaders, members of armed forces, of the police and the judiciary as well as civil society activists, community leaders, women and youth, amongst others.
The UNMISS Human Rights Division has also provided technical support to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on international human rights mechanisms. We have assisted them in undertaking public consultations, drafting and submitting the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report. In addition, we provided similar support to civil society organizations to submit the corresponding shadow report.
Finally, following the adoption of this Council’s resolution 46/29 last March, my Office received, in July, funding to hire two consultants, who will be embedded within national institutions and work on human rights capacity building. The Office is also planning two workshops on transitional justice, following the adoption of resolutions 46/29 and 46/20. We expect to receive specific requests from the Government of South Sudan for additional capacity building activities and I look forward to reporting on those at the Human Rights Council’s 49th session.
I thank you for your attention.