South Sudan: Killings, mass displacement and systematic looting as government forces purge civilians from Upper Nile

Tens of thousands of civilians in South Sudan’s Upper Nile region were forcibly displaced as government forces burnt, shelled and systematically looted their homes between January and May 2017, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today based on interviews with dozens of victims and eyewitnesses.

Civilians belonging to the Shilluk minority told Amnesty International how government troops and allied militias stole anything they could get their hands on in the aftermath of attacks, from stored food supplies to furniture and even the front doors of houses. One village chief described the destruction as though the area had been “swept by a flood.”

“Even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility, the mass displacement of the Shilluk ethnic minority, almost in its entirety, is truly shocking,” said Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

Even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility, the mass displacement of the Shilluk ethnic minority, almost in its entirety, is truly shocking.
Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International

“Whole areas of the Shilluk heartland have been ravaged, with civilians’ homes burnt and their belongings and food stores looted. This leaves them with little prospect of returning home, given the region’s growing humanitarian crisis and their fears of renewed violence.”

The January-May 2017 government offensive in Upper Nile, aided by ethnic Dinka militias, retook territory that had in recent years been under the control of an opposition armed group made up of Shilluk Agwelek fighters under the command of Johnson Olony. It displaced tens of thousands of Shilluk civilians, including nearly the entire populations of numerous towns and villages on the west bank of the White Nile.

Amnesty International has gathered satellite imagery showing the destruction of homes and other civilian objects in the central areas of Wau Shilluk – including a traditional temple or Radd. Most people in the region live in thatch-roofed huts called tukuls, which are highly flammable. 

Before (December 2016) and after (March 2017) satellite images show how areas of central Wau Shilluk were burnt. © DigitalGlobe 2017, NextView License


Before (December 2016) and after (March 2017) satellite images show how areas of central Wau Shilluk were burnt. © DigitalGlobe 2017, NextView License

In late May and early June, Amnesty International researchers interviewed 79 victims and eyewitnesses to abuses at an ad hoc displaced persons camp in Aburoc, and in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, both in the Upper Nile region. They also spoke to numerous humanitarian staff, UN officials, and opposition, political and civil society figures in Aburoc, Malakal and Juba.

The organization documented how government troops killed several civilians over the course of the offensive. Some of the killings were clearly deliberate, as the victims were shot while held captive or shot in the back while they attempted to flee.

Victims and eyewitnesses also described how indiscriminate shelling, targeted burning, and even a bombing from an Antonov plane destroyed civilian homes. In a few instances, elderly or vulnerable people unable to flee burnt to death in their homes.

Some of the Shilluk have returned to their homes since the offensive, but the large majority remain displaced. Tens of thousands have fled north to become refugees in Sudan, and some 10,000 others are surviving in squalid conditions in an ad hoc camp in Aburoc village that has been wracked by dire shortages and cases of cholera.

An internally displaced woman of the Shilluk minority. © Amnesty International


An internally displaced woman of the Shilluk minority. © Amnesty International

Located in a pocket controlled by the Agwelek opposition forces, who are aligned with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLA-IO), Aburoc is patrolled by a small contingent of UN peacekeeping troops sent there to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. As it lacks sufficient water for their basic needs, the camp is ill-suited to be a long-term refuge for large numbers of displaced persons.

“Bereft of food and belongings, Shilluk civilians will need humanitarian aid to return home. But most of all, UN peacekeepers must be prepared and adequately resourced to ensure that their security will be protected,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

Sudan: Arrest of leading human rights activist underscores crackdown on dissent

The arrest of award-winning Sudanese human rights activist Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is further proof of the government’s intolerance of independent voices, said Amnesty International after his employer confirmed today that state agents arrested him in Khartoum on 7 December.
 
He was arrested by National Intelligence Security Service agents at the University of Khartoum, where he works as an engineering professor, and taken to an undisclosed location, where he is at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
 
He has not been informed of the reasons for his arrest or charged with any offence.
 
“Mudawi’s arbitrary arrest underscores the government’s desperate attempts to extinguish the last embers of dissent in the country. This wanton repression and disregard for human rights must come to an end,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
 
“The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him and all other detainees who have been arrested arbitrarily, and take measures to rein in the excessive powers of the National Intelligence Security Service.”
 
Mudawi, 58, has worked extensively on human rights causes throughout Sudan. In 2005, he was awarded the Human Rights Defenders at Risk Award by Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based human rights organization.
 
His arrest comes at a time when at least 23 opposition leaders and supporters are in jail having been arrested in connection with a three-day stay-at-home strike called in protest against the rising cost of living and government spending cuts. The strike took place between 27 to 29 November.
 
It is not the first time Mudawi has been arrested. In December 2003 he was detained for eight months in connection with his work on Darfur. He was arrested again in January 2005 in similar circumstances and held for two months, before being re-arrested in May the same year and held for a further eight days.
 
His organization, the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), was shut down by the government in March 2009.

Sudan: International chemical weapons investigation urgently needed into horrific Jebel Marra attacks

Member states of the international body responsible for monitoring the use of chemical weapons must trigger an investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, revealed by Amnesty International last month.
 
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council will start a three-day meeting at the organisation’s headquarters in the Hague today. Many of the members who will be present at the meeting, including France and other EU member states, have expressed their alarm over the chemical weapons allegations.
 
“Expressing concern and consternation will not suffice, we need to see concrete steps towards an independent investigation. We have credible evidence of horrific injuries, and estimates of up to 250 deaths, caused by dozens of suspected chemical weapons attacks against civilian populations over the past nine months,” said Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.
 
“These brutal attacks have caused unimaginable human suffering, particularly among young children, and must be investigated. Darfur dropped off the international agenda a decade ago but the relentless attacks on villages and slaughter of civilians, as well as apparent use of chemical weapons, show that it must be put back on as a matter of urgency.”
 
“The international community cannot ignore this wake up call, and independent investigations into the use of chemical weapons must be instigated at this meeting.”
 
Amnesty International is calling for member states at the OPCW meeting, which takes place between 11 and 14 October, to formally request that the Executive Council of the OPCW obtain clarification from the government of Sudan about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Jebel Marra area in accordance with article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention. If the Executive Council is unable to obtain adequate clarification from the government of Sudan, then member states must formally request a comprehensive on-site challenge inspection.

Sudan: UN Security Council must act over reported use of chemical weapons in Darfur

   
The UN Security Council must take action over the conflict in Darfur, Amnesty International, after the Sudanese government rejected evidence presented by the organization implicating their forces in the apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians.
 
The Amnesty International investigation, Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air, points to the repeated use of chemical weapons in the remote Jebel Marra region of Darfur this year. Between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of the attacks, many of them very young children.
 
“Images of children suffering from horrific blisters and burns, reports of bombs emitting plumes of coloured smoke, and of people vomiting and struggling to breathe – these are the macabre hallmarks of chemical warfare, gathered in our report and crying out for an international inquiry,” said Tirana Hassan.
 
Amnesty International’s investigation is based on testimony from more than 200 survivors and caregivers, as well as the expert analysis of images showing children with shocking injuries.
 
In a letter dated 27 September 2016, the Sudanese government dismissed the evidence in the investigation as “unreliable, contradictory and unsubstantiated”. Sudan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has also denied the findings in media interviews.
 
“The world cannot stand idly by any longer. The UN needs to act. A cloud of suspicion hangs over the Sudanese authorities’ conduct in Darfur. Their sweeping rejection of the evidence only underscores the need for the UN Security Council to investigate what has every sign of being a war crime,” said Tirana Hassan.
 
Note to editors: The Sudanese authorities’ letter of response is available here.

South Sudan: Renewed clashes put civilians at risk, underline need for arms embargo

Warring parties in South Sudan must take all possible measures to protect civilians, including thousands of internally displaced people currently sheltering at UN bases, said Amnesty International as fighting continued to threaten civilian areas in the capital, Juba, today.

Screenshot 2016-07-12 at 10.00.48 PM

On 10 and 11 July, artillery shells landed in civilian neighbourhoods near Vice-President Riek Machar’s base in Jebel neighbourhood, injuring civilians and damaging their homes.

Renewed clashes between rival armed forces since 7 July have left hundreds of people dead and others displaced. Many civilians have not left their homes in days and are running out of food and water. Others have fled to churches and to UN displacement sites, which have themselves come under artillery fire in recent days.

“International law is clear – both sides must refrain from attacking civilian objects, including UN sites where desperate civilians are sheltering. The rival parties must remove military objectives from civilian areas and work with the UN Mission in South Sudan to provide civilians with safe passage out of frontline areas,” said Elizabeth Deng, Amnesty International’s South Sudan Researcher.

“Attacks on civilians and UN personnel delivering humanitarian aid are violations of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.”

For peace to stand a chance, the UN Security Council must ensure that all countries halt any further flow of weapons into South Sudan by immediately imposing a comprehensive arms embargo
Elizabeth Deng, Amnesty International’s South Sudan Researcher

The renewed fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to First Vice-President Riek Machar also further highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive global arms embargo on the country. Amnesty International has been lobbying for a halt to arms transfers since the conflict first erupted in December 2013 to help bring an end to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan.

“For peace to stand a chance, the UN Security Council must ensure that all countries halt any further flow of weapons into South Sudan by immediately imposing a comprehensive arms embargo,” said Elizabeth Deng.

“The embargo, which should cover the supply, sale and transfer of weapons, ammunition and military vehicles, will reduce the likelihood of all disagreements resulting in widespread death and destruction.”

The international community must also impose targeted sanctions against civilian and military officials reasonably suspected of responsibility for crimes under international law or human rights violations.

“While targeted sanctions are not a substitute for criminal accountability, in the short term they would serve as a deterrent to further violations, where none currently exists,” said Elizabeth Deng.

“The African Union must also expedite the formation of the long-awaited hybrid court to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict and end the culture of impunity that continues to feed this cycle of violence.”

Background

This latest round of fighting erupted on Thursday 7 July in Juba’s Gudele neighbourhood, pitting Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and SPLA-In Opposition (IO) forces loyal to Vice-President Riek Machar. Five SPLA soldiers were reported killed in the fighting.

On Friday evening, gunfire erupted outside the presidential palace where President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar were meeting. At a joint press conference afterwards, the two leaders called for calm and urged their forces to stop fighting.

There was further exchange of heavy gunfire on Sunday morning with some artillery shells landing in UN compounds, and further reports of fighting on Monday 11 July.

UN must act on call for South Sudan arms embargo

26 January 2016, 15:18 UTC

The UN Security Council must act immediately on the recommendations of its own Panel of Experts and enforce a comprehensive arms embargo to halt the flow of weapons into South Sudan, said Amnesty International today.

Following the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, Amnesty International has been lobbying for an arms embargo to help bring an end to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The fighting has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

“Last year’s peace agreement has proven insufficient to end atrocities and usher in accountability in South Sudan’s internal armed conflict. It should be a no-brainer for the international community to suspend the flow of arms where those arms are being used repeatedly to commit war crimes and to perpetuate grave and systematic human rights violations and abuses,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. 

It should be a no-brainer to suspend the flow of arms where they are being used repeatedly to commit war crimes and to perpetuate grave and systematic human rights violations and abuses.

Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“The arms embargo should be seen as a preventive rather than a punitive measure and be an essential step towards consolidating lasting respect for human rights. No country should be transferring arms to any party to the conflict in South Sudan until there are clear and enforceable guarantees that those arms will not be used to commit or facilitate further violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.”

The UN Panel’s report concluded that: “Both sides have continued to seek to arm their forces, even after the signing of the peace agreement in August [2015] and in the face of considerable economic stress. The continued influx of arms has had a devastating impact on civilians and on the overall security situation in the country…”

It therefore called for a comprehensive embargo on the supply, sale, transfer or transhipment of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and any other forms of military assistance, including technical and financial assistance, equipment maintenance and training, to South Sudan.

The countries named in the report as having facilitated arms transfers to South Sudan include Ukraine, which has transferred helicopters and machine guns, and has provided military logistical assistance. Independent sources told the Panel that there is a “standing unwritten agreement” whereby Uganda acts as a regional conduit for transfers of arms and ammunition. Israeli Micro Galil rifles seen in Upper Nile State, for instance, were originally exported by Israel to Uganda in 2007, but were subsequently sold on to the South Sudanese National Security Service in 2014. The report described the Sudanese government as “the default arms supplier for the opposition” in South Sudan, although opposition forces were also using ammunition originating in China and the former Soviet Union.

In July 2014, Amnesty International slammed the shipment of more than 1,000 tonnes of small arms and light weapons to South Sudan’s government from the Chinese state-owned manufacturer, China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). The Chinese government then cancelled further arms transfers in September 2014 following international outcry.

Welcoming the UN Panel’s call for an arms embargo, Amnesty International added that it should include all indirect exports via other countries, the transfer of military components, dual-use technologies and any brokering, financial or logistical activities that would facilitate arms transfers.

Background

Amnesty International first called on the UN Security Council in May 2007 to strengthen provisions of the UN arms embargo on Sudan by extending its application to the entire territory of Sudan, including to South Sudan (before it became an independent state in 2011). Since the conflict between forces loyal to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and those loyal to opposition leader Riek Machar began in December 2013, Amnesty International and others have documented and published evidence of war crimes and other serious violations and abuses being carried out by both sides. An African Union (AU) report published in October 2015 condemned killings, torture, mutilations and rape against civilians – as well as forced cannibalism. 

The conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the destruction of entire towns. Approximately 1.6 million people were internally displaced and another 600,000 fled to neighbouring countries. An estimated 3.9 million are facing food insecurity, with the UN repeatedly warning of a deepening humanitarian crisis and potential famine should fighting continue. 

Despite several attempted ceasefires in the ensuing years, culminating in a more elaborate peace agreement signed in August 2015, there continues to be total disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law and a lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed in the conflict. Progress towards the establishment of a Transitional Government of National Unity envisaged in the peace agreement has stalled.

Amnesty International, Bashir and the ICC

Amnesty International believes that no one, regardless of their status, including a sitting head of state, should have immunity from prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In our view, South Africa should have arrested President Bashir in June and surrendered him to the ICC to face trial. Its failure to do so has denied access to justice for Darfurian victims.

South Africa is entitled to disagree with the ICC’s interpretation of its Statute. But that does not mean that it can refuse to comply with the Court’s decision to arrest President Bashir. It is the ICC judges – not South Africa or the Assembly – that are mandated to decide this matter. It is therefore inappropriate for the government to seek a contradictory interpretation by the Assembly, which is a political body. If South Africa wishes to pursue its arguments, then it can do so before the Court in the on-going non-cooperation proceedings relating to this incident.

A time for justice in South Sudan

As evidence degrades and memories fade, Ken Scott who researches South Sudan for Amnesty International, argues that investigations must begin into war crimes now

The African Union’s long overdue report into the conflict in South Sudan delivers shocking but not surprising conclusions on the current state of the country. Its evidence of killings, torture, mutilations and rape against civilians – as well as forced cannibalism, serve to highlight the urgency for impartial investigations into war crimes, if further atrocities are to be deterred and those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law held to account.

In the 15 months since the Commission’s researchers concluded their investigations the conflict has intensified with serious human rights violations and abuses committed by both sides to a non-international armed conflict that has seen tens of thousands killed and two million people forced from their homes.

While the publication of the report is a significant – if tardy – step towards accountability in South Sudan, its impact will depend on how quickly a systematic framework to investigate these crimes can be set up. As evidence degrades and memories fade, each passing day takes South Sudan’s victims further from justice.
It is the peace accord, signed in August by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, which holds the country’s best hope for a sustainable peace, despite regular violations of the agreed ceasefire. It provides for power sharing, demilitarization and security sector reform, while also setting out important transitional justice mechanisms. These include a reparation authority, a truth and reconciliation commission and a special hybrid criminal court, to be established by the African Union Commission (AUC).

Surprisingly the criminal accountability mechanism was readily accepted by both sides of the conflict. Indeed, when President Kiir signed the agreement, he listed 16 major reservations, but the establishment of a criminal court that might someday hold senior South Sudanese political and military leaders to account was not one of them.

The complete lack of accountability for previous cycles of violence in the region that has become South Sudan has been one of the root causes of the recent conflict.  A failure to deal with deep grievances and to achieve real justice has too often only nurtured the next round of mass violence. With few exceptions, most of the community leaders with whom I spoke during a recent trip to South Sudan believe that any hope for a sustained peace in South Sudan must include real accountability for the horrible wrongs done. They also believe that the vast majority of South Sudanese people, who may not have been convinced of this need in the past, now see it as a necessity.

The peace accord requires the transitional government, “upon inception,” to initiate legislation to establish the hybrid court which, according to the agreement, will be put in place by the AUC.  As illustrated by a joint letter sent on September 23 by numerous South Sudanese and international non-governmental organizations to the Chair of the AUC, Dr. Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma, there is a genuine need for the Commission to put an operating hybrid court in place as soon as possible. 

This provision is a positive step but what matters is seeing it become a reality. And sooner, rather than later.  

We know that establishing a fully-operational court, with the necessary personnel, infrastructure and funding, will take some time.  But there is an urgent need to collect and preserve evidence now. Physical evidence degrades quickly in a tropical environment and may also be intentionally destroyed, altered or concealed. Witness memories fade and their whereabouts become unknown. Vital evidence is lost forever.  This is why it is important that, alongside prompt steps to establish the hybrid court, the African Union or the international community urgently establish an interim investigative mechanism with a robust mandate to investigate possible war crimes and collect and preserve evidence.

There is plenty of authority and clear precedent for such actions.  Commissions of experts were conducting investigations before the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals were fully set up and functioning. Likewise in Sudan, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur was set up as a precursor to the Security Council referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The African Union report – and numerous other reports by organizations including Amnesty International – leave no doubt of the crimes under international law that have been committed in South Sudan by both parties to the conflict. It is now time for the perpetrators of these crimes to be found and held to account.

Taking immediate steps to set-up investigations on the ground will send a clear message that the demand for justice is being heard and that the AU’s report is more than shocking words on paper. For it to deliver any real value, it needs to act as a trigger for serious accountability measures to be put in place with genuine steps toward justice, truth and reparation in South Sudan.

Ken Scott is a consultant with Amnesty International and former senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a special prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

‘Stop education, lose a generation’ – Tough lessons for refugees fleeing Sudan’s overlooked crisis

By Alex Neve, secretario general de Amnistía Internacional Canadá, 7 May 2015, 11:17 UTC

People flee fighting in Southern Kordofan FILE Photo 2011 EPA/ PAUL BANKS /

People flee fighting in Southern Kordofan FILE Photo 2011 EPA/ PAUL BANKS /

 

HANDOUT

In a forgotten corner of South Sudan – a country itself mired in war, human rights violations and a staggering humanitarian catastrophe – refugees from a largely overlooked human rights crisis continue to arrive and continue to face immense challenges.

The refugee camps of Yida and Adjoung Thok lie inside the northern tip of the country’s Unity State (a cruelly ironic name for a state that has seen some of the worst fighting in the country’s current civil war), very close to the border that was etched into atlases when it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

They have  arrived here from neighbouring Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state, where an overlooked human rights crisis has played out during four unrelenting years of armed conflict and at the Sudanese armed forces’ massive and indiscriminate military assault.

These refugees number around 95,000 and continue to arrive daily. Just imagine the desperation that makes fleeing to war ravaged South Sudan, a more attractive option than enduring the bombing, terror and hunger in Southern Kordofan.   

In Unity State, refugees are primarily divided between two camps: 70,000 in Yida, where we are today, and another 25,000 in nearby Adjoung Thok. This is the third time in three years that I have been to Yida with an Amnesty team. Already I feel heavy with the familiarity of the immense challenges here, and determined that we must press harder for solutions that ensure the rights of an incredibly vulnerable population are upheld.   

“Here the survivors of untold endless atrocities grapple with normalising their lives; seeking basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing and perhaps even satisfy the yearning of a much elusive education.”

Since it was set up in 2011, there has been controversy about Yida’s location, only some 20 kilometres from the border with a country where war continues to rage between the Sudanese military and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N) opposition forces.   

Here the survivors of untold endless atrocities grapple with normalising their lives; seeking basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing and perhaps even satisfy the yearning of a much elusive education.

Alex Neve

We were here in 2012 and there were efforts under way to encourage refugees to move to a new camp, Nyel, which it was feared would turn into a swampy bog during the rainy season.  That failed.  We were here in 2013 and the plan was a move to the new Adjoung Thok site. This time refugees feared it took them closer to a border area controlled by the Sudanese military, whereas the border near Yida is patrolled by the SPLA-N.   

With time, however, Adjoung Thok has begun to fill up, mainly with newly arriving refugees (there have been 10,000 since the end of December, the dry season which saw a spike in bombings in Southern Kordofan).

Those debates about location and moving were fraught with legitimate fears and rampant rumours.  They were about sticking to refugee protection principles, but politics have played a role as well.

And so, on this current visit it comes as no surprise that the first topic on everyone’s mind is, again, a new site and plans to move. And once again there is disagreement. The South Sudanese government has approved one site, now backed by the UN and donor states; refugee leaders are pressing for another. It is not at all clear how it will unfold. There is no prospect of forcing refugees onto trucks at gunpoint. But there are many other forces pushing and pulling them in several different directions.

Particularly telling for me today were the words from one of the leaders in the camp, variations of which I’ve heard before. He asked: why don’t our views matter? Why don’t we get to decide about our own security, where we will send our kids to school, and where we will try to rebuild our lives by growing a bit of food? I remembered the fiery insistence of a refugee woman on my last visit that she was the one, better than anyone, who knew where she and her children would be safest.

One pressing concern that has repeatedly come up so poignantly every time I have been here is education. It has again certainly been prominent in all of our conversations in the camp today.

Because international donors think refugees shouldn’t be settling in Yida for the long term, they have refused to fund a number of programmes and initiatives that they fear would give it a sense of permanence. That has included schools. Imagine the numbers of school-age children in a camp of 65,000 people. There are around 16,000 of primary school age alone. Four years into Yida’s existence, there are no schools funded by the international community – four wasted years in a child’s life. No UNICEF blue backpacks, no teachers salaried by the European Union, no notebooks and pencils coming in from Canada and Australia, no schools constructed by South Africa. This is despite the fact that all children, whatever their circumstances, have a right to free and compulsory primary education.

Schools are on offer in Adjoung Thok of course; and that is meant be an incentive to move there. It has encouraged some, but most remain at Yida. So thousands of students are learning in makeshift schools built with the same rudimentary materials as the shelters they sleep in. Volunteers from among the refugee community (some of whom were teachers, most not) do their best to teach. And refugee families are asked to pay a school fee (the equivalent of about $4 per year, which most families here struggle to come up with, and which runs contrary to that universal right to free primary education).

Regardless of the merits of Yida versus Adjoung Thok, or of the two locations that are the subject of the current dispute, there is something worrying about using such an important human right, the right to education, as a bargaining chip.

Because as one leader put it to us today, when you stop education, you lose a generation. And this overlooked crisis in a forgotten corner cannot afford that loss.

Sudan: African Union should publish Commission of Inquiry report, ensure accountability

“There must be an end to impunity for crimes under international law and human rights abuses in South Sudan. Not only is justice a right of victims, accountability could serve as a powerful deterrent to those who think they can kill, rape and pillage with no consequence”

Source: Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

 

“Three months after the Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the AU, its findings and recommendations are yet to see the light of day. In the meantime the conflict in South Sudan is continuing unabated with dire impacts on the civilian population.”

Source: Edmund Yakani, director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization.

 

The African Union (AU) should immediately publish the report of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, said Amnesty International, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights), and the South Sudan Law Society. 

Their joint call comes ahead of the AU summit, amid concern that the ongoing delay in the publication of the report is impacting on the urgent need for accountability for crimes committed in South Sudan. 

“Three months after the Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the AU, its findings and recommendations are yet to see the light of day,” said Edmund Yakani, director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization. “In the meantime the conflict in South Sudan is continuing unabated with dire impacts on the civilian population.” 

Over the past year, all parties to the conflict have committed crimes under international law that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians often based on ethnicity or perceived political allegiance, sexual violence, and wide-spread destruction and looting of civilian property.   

The Commission of Inquiry ended investigations in August and submitted its final report to the Chairperson of the AU Commission in October 2014. Since then it has not been made public. 

The AU Peace and Security Council will consider the situation in South Sudan and the report of the Commission of Inquiry on 29 January. 

The organizations also called on the AU to insist that there be accountability for violations of human rights and humanitarian law that have taken place in South Sudan. Publishing the report, along with a regional commitment to ensure accountability, could play an important role in deterring further crimes as well as ending the conflict. 

“There must be an end to impunity for crimes under international law and human rights abuses in South Sudan,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy. “Not only is justice a right of victims, accountability could serve as a powerful deterrent to those who think they can kill, rape and pillage with no consequence.” 

As well as truth and reparations mechanisms, the organizations believe that the AU should consider the establishment of a hybrid court that would provide for South Sudanese and specially trained foreign investigators and judges to continue the investigations conducted by the Commission of Inquiry and to try those suspected of responsibility for crimes under international law. 

“Given the pervasive weaknesses in the administration of justice in South Sudan, credible and independent investigations and prosecutions will require robust international involvement,” said Drissa Traoré, Vice-President of FIDH. “Efforts should simultaneously be made to strengthen South Sudan’s criminal justice system.”   

Background: 

The five member Commission of Inquiry, chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, was established by the AU in March 2014 to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed by parties to the South Sudan conflict and make recommendations on accountability, reconciliation and healing among South Sudanese communities. 

In South Sudan, there has been no accountability for conflict related crimes. The Government of South Sudan has boasted the establishment of an eight-member Presidential investigation committee set up to assess human rights abuses by government and opposition forces as demonstrative of progress towards accountability. 

This committee submitted its report to the President during the first week of December 2014 but it has not been made public, and has not as yet triggered any criminal investigations or prosecutions.  This decision to make the report public lies solely with President Salva Kiir. 

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has published multiple reports detailing evidence of human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses committed by parties to the conflict. UNMISS has recommended that national processes be complemented by international assistance through the establishment of a special or hybrid court system with international involvement and that consideration be given to international assistance to pursue serious and independent investigations. 

The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child conducted a mission to South Sudan in August 2014 during which it received evidence of recruitment of children into armed forces, abductions of children, rape of girls and boys, and killings of children. 

In a September 2014 address to the UN Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry’s Chairperson, Olusegun Obasanjo, said “violations [of human rights] are across the board, no South Sudanese leader can claim innocence…what we do hear from every group we talk to is that there must be accountability, that no lasting reconciliation can be done until justice appears to be done.”