South Sudan - Country of Concern: latest update, 30 September 2014
|Publisher||United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office|
|Publication Date||30 September 2014|
|Related Document(s)||South Sudan - Country of Concern: latest update, 21 January 2015|
|Cite as||United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, South Sudan - Country of Concern: latest update, 30 September 2014, 30 September 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/54c60bf34.html [accessed 11 December 2017]|
The ongoing conflict which broke out in December 2013 continues to dominate the human rights situation in South Sudan. The overall picture remains deeply concerning. In the past three months, there have been continuing reports of human rights violations, including the targeting of civilians, sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers. At the same time, there have been increasing concerns about a narrowing of civil and political space.
While peace talks continue into their ninth month, led and mediated by the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), security remains fragile, and breaches of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, originally signed on 23 January 2014, continue. During this reporting period, these included multiple attacks on Nasir in the South of Upper Nile State and on Renk in the North. In addition, there were reports of skirmishes across several states, including on Dolieb Hill, South of Malakal, and in Guit County south of the Unity State capital, Bentiu. The then Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, condemned the fighting in Nasir in his statement of 31 July as "a further dangerous departure from the cessation of hostilities".
Both sides to the conflict have stated their commitment to holding the perpetrators of human rights violations to account. However, a report of 19 September from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said "little or no progress" had been registered to date. The government's investigative committees are yet to report their findings and, at the time of writing, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had not received a formal response to its human rights report of May 2014.
The UK continues to support the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in its work to document and investigate human rights violations and abuses arising from the conflict. On 10 July, the CoI's mandate was extended by the AU Peace and Security Council for three months, to allow more extensive consultations and enable the CoI to finalise investigations. Following an interim report in April, we expect the CoI's final report to issue in October.
During this reporting period, there have continued to be accusations of the use of child soldiers in the conflict. Human Rights Watch relayed eyewitness accounts of child soldiers being active during fighting in Bentiu, Unity State, and in neighbouring towns in mid-August. On 18 July, the UN submitted to the President's Office a list of 33 schools reportedly used for military purposes by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). By the end of July, OHCHR reported that eight schools had been vacated by the army.
There continues to be significant numbers of reports of sexual violence across South Sudan, including near UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites. Information received by OHCHR indicates that the heavy presence of armed personnel is posing a grave risk to the security of women and girls in some regions, although there have also been incidents in areas away from the main conflict. For example, there were reports of eight cases of rape as part of inter-clan violence in Lakes State during August. At the UK's invitation, the government of South Sudan attended the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict in London in June. Developing a follow-up action plan was discussed during the visit of the Department for International Development Minister, Lynne Featherstone, to Juba on 1-2 September.
An increasing number of organisations have raised concerns about narrowing political space within South Sudan. On 13 September, a member of the Political Parties Delegation to the IGAD peace negotiations was prevented from travelling from Juba to Ethiopia to participate in the talks.
An NGO bill, in development for the past two years, is due a fourth reading in South Sudan's Parliament; reports suggest it may pass into law in the coming months. South Sudanese and international civil society groups have expressed serious concerns that, if passed in its current form, the bill would lead to restrictions on NGO operations. The UK government has raised these concerns with the government of South Sudan, including at ministerial level.
We continue to receive credible reports of harassment and intimidation of journalists. During this reporting period, Bakhita Radio, a Juba-based radio station run by the Catholic Church, was temporarily closed and its editor detained. By the end of the reporting period, the station had not yet returned to air. Self-censorship by journalists and media houses continues to be widespread.
Three long-awaited media bills were passed into law on 9 September. However, at the time of writing, the final text of these bills was yet to be released, raising some concerns amongst media practitioners. It was recently reported that the Minister for Information had accused all those journalists who report opposition views of being anti-government agitators.
In a statement at a UN Human Rights Council panel discussion about South Sudan on 24 September, the UK expressed its serious concerns at this "worrying trend of increased restrictions upon, and threats to, the media and civil society." In the same statement, we condemned the appalling violations resulting from the ongoing conflict, and expressed our deep concern at the overall human rights situation in South Sudan.