The conflict, which has expanded to previously unaffected regions such as the Greater Equatoria and the Greater Bahr-El-Ghazal, continue to primarily affect civilians who remain targets of crimes that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, acts of torture, destruction and looting of property, destruction of hospitals and schools, recruitment of child soldiers, attacks on humanitarian personnel and assets. The scale of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, gang-rape, abduction of women and girls and sexual slavery, suggest that these crimes are intentionally being used as a weapon of war. In parallel, human rights defenders and journalists continue to be subject of threats, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention by the Government.
Mr. President, the conflict in South Sudan has now taken a dramatic turn with the multiplication of ethnic killings, combined with recurring hate speeches and ethnically divisive rhetoric pronounced by political leaders. Such developments have led several UN mechanisms to warn on the serious risks of seeing the violence escalating along ethnic lines, with potential for genocide. The emergence, over the past recent weeks, of new militias, raises fears of seeing such risks intensify further.
Such state of increasing violence has a direct impact on the humanitarian situation, which continues to dramatically deteriorate and destabilize the sub-region. South Sudan is now the largest source of population displacement in Africa, with more than 1.5 million people who have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries – half of them having fled in 2016 – and more than 2 million who are internally displaced. 42% of the population is now food insecure, more than 7 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, while the Government continues to obstruct delivery of humanitarian aid in opposition-controlled areas.
Impunity continues to fuel the violence and crimes committed in South Sudan. The recent report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan suggests that there has been no meaningful efforts by the Government to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible. In light of the limited progress towards accountability, and fearing that evidence continues to degrade, FIDH welcomes and strongly support the Commission’s call for the immediate establishment of an international impartial and independent investigation into the most serious crimes committed since the conflict erupted in December 2013. Such investigation must lay the groundwork for criminal prosecutions, including before the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS). In that regard, FIDH reiterates its call upon the Human Rights Council to support the establishment, without further delay, of the HCSS by the African Union, with priority being given to the creation of its investigative branch.