South Sudan : First Anniversary of Independence

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Celebrations marred by tensions with Sudan and serious human rights violations

On 9 July 2012, South Sudan will celebrate its first anniversary of independence. Meanwhile, a report from FIDH’s fact-finding mission, entitled "Time to Act for Peace and Human Rights Protection", reveals serious concerns about the human rights situation in South Sudan. It recommends the establishment of an appropriate and protective legal and institutional framework in the country, and calls for the immediate and effective settlement of the longstanding dispute with neighboring Sudan.

Civilians are the primary victims of Sudan and South Sudan’s disagreements on the status of Abyei, demarcation of the border, alleged support for rebel groups operating in South Kordofan/Blue Nile States and Southern Sudan, and oil transit costs. The deterioration of the relationship between the two states has been evident in the indiscriminate aerial bombings, summary executions, forced displacement and other serious human rights violations directed mainly at civilians. On both sides of the border, civilians are also the main victims of the severe economic crisis resulting from the closure of South Sudan’s oil valves in early 2012.

"Military clashes between Sudan and South Sudan, which peaked in intensity in March and April 2012 around the Heglig oil region, have raised fears of an outbreak of war and its tragic consequences for civilians if the parties fail to achieve a lasting agreement on issues dividing them soon" declared Arnold Tsunga, Vice-President of FIDH.

Whilst conciliatory negotiations between the two states have only just resumed under the auspices of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP), FIDH calls upon the international community to consider the imposition of immediate sanctions should agreement through these talks not be reached on time. FIDH recalls that the African Union and the United Nations Security Council have set a 02 August 2012 deadline for the implementation of provisions in their roadmap to end the crisis, including achieving agreement on issues related to the sharing of oil revenues, citizenship and the status of Abyei.

FIDH’s report also highlights other important sources of human rights violations in South Sudan, including serious inter-ethnic violence in the Jonglei region (each attack resulting in several hundred deaths, rapes and destruction of property), harmful practices contrary to the rights of women, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and attacks upon freedom of expression.

"South Sudan has experienced 20 years of war against the Sudanese army, a period in which force prevailed over law and impunity was the rule. Certain politicians and elements of the security forces have retained their guerrilla reflexes. The repressive practices of former Sudanese governance prevail. The judiciary is dilapidated" declared Mohammed Badawi, expert from FIDH member organization, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).

Accordingly, South Sudan must urgently develop a legal and institutional framework to protect human rights. FIDH calls upon the South Sudanese authorities to ratify as soon as possible the main international and regional conventions for the protection of human rights. They must adopt, after a fully inclusive process, a Constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights; enact legislation, particularly regarding the press and freedom of association; and undertake legislative reform, including in respect of the state’s criminal law and procedure. Moreover, South Sudan must strengthening the capacity of agents and commissions responsible for human rights protection within the Ministries and Parliament to make an impact, strengthening the human and financial resources of the National Commission on Human Rights, and taking all necessary measures to establish an efficient judicial system imbued with public confidence.

"Without a legal and institutional framework to protect human rights, the authorities’ commitment to fundamental freedoms are meaningless. This issue must be urgently addressed if the country wants to achieve successful transition towards a peaceful rule of law and respect for democratic principles" declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Download the report: "Time to Act for Peace and Human Rights Protection"

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