South Sudan promotes and rewards ‘big’ men responsible for sexual violence – UNCHR

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has reiterated its calls for the government of South Sudan to prosecute individuals accused of sexual gender-based violence.

The body reprimanded the government for repeatedly failing to bring to books perpetrators of human rights violations. It believes the government is encouraging impunity by “promoting the perpetrators.”

It accused some State Governors and County Commissioners of being responsible for gross sexual violations.

“Nowhere in the world do you find so many women who experience conflict by being repeatedly gang raped, year after year since 2013, shunned and stigmatised, suffering in silence, while the men responsible are promoted and rewarded,” the body said in a press statement issued on Monday, November 28.

In 2014, President Salva Kiir signed a joint communiqué with the United Nations agreeing to be a champion in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan; in 2015 the opposition SPLM/A-IO announced its Action Plan to tackle sexual violence and a further Implementation Plan; in 2019 the army unveiled an Action Plan to tackle sexual violence; and in 2020 South Sudan started a Gender Based Violence Court in the capital Juba.

Yasmin Soka, the Chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said the government has not lived up to its past promises of addressing human rights issues.

“It is meaningless for the government to come up with an array of declarations, national commitments, pledges and plans if no action is taken against those in high office who are responsible for the repeated violence against women and girls,” she said.

After the 2016 conflict, the government public tried soldiers accused of committing rape at Terrain hotel in Juba. The hotel mostly accommodated nationals from the west working in South Sudan. The government has then repeatedly argued that it is committed to punishing violators of human rights.

“It is not enough, now and again, to try a handful of junior officers without holding those in command responsible,” Yasmin Soka argued.

She stated that women and girls in the country continue to experience sexual abuses despite the commitment by the authorities.

“This year, we have seen the most dehumanising sexual violence in South Sudan for which the government bears responsibility because of its failure over many years to hold individuals accountable, especially in Unity State where we are dealing with gross and systematic human rights violations amounting to international crimes,” said Andrew Clapham, Commissioner of the UN body.

This is not the first time for the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is issuing such a statement.

In February this year, the body said the lack of progress in implementing key provisions of the revitalized agreement contributes to persistent insecurity and impunity in human rights violations.

It called for the urgent establishment of the transitional justice mechanism to address the human rights situation in the country.

The UN body further initiation of the security sector reform, constitutional and electoral reform.