August 27, 2017 (PRETORIA) – Five South African-based human rights organisations have called on their government to urgently intervene to government to stop the gross human rights violations in South Sudan.
- South Sudanese refugees in White Nile State receive humanitarian assistance on 27 February 2017 (SUNA photo)
Abuses in South Sudan, according to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, include ” the deliberate targeting of civilian populations on the basis of their ethnic identity by means of killings,abductions, unlawful detentions or deprivation of liberty, rape and sexual violence, and the burning of villages and looting”.
The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide had earlier warned that there were indicators of genocide in South Sudan as scorched earth policies and the violent conflict put at risk an estimated 5 million people said to be food insecure.
David Bilchitz, Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), said “the situation has become utterly intolerable and is not receiving the priority attention it deserves so as to prevent the most shocking human rights violations. Silence in such a situation is complicity”.
Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand stated, “South Africa, as an important voice on the African continent, must use all diplomatic means at its disposal to find a solution”.
“The protection of civilians against deliberates killing, sexual violence, the destruction of their homesand famine must become a priority of the African Union and international community”, he added.
However, the conflict results from the eruption of violence between forces loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to the former Vice President Dr Riek Machar. The implementation of a peace agreement failed when fighting broke out in Juba in July 2016 between the two parties.
In the wake of this political dispute, thousands of more civilians have been displaced and forced to take refuge in South Sudan’s neighboring countries.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that almost two million refugees out of a population of 12 million have fled the world’s youngest nation.
However, Prof Frans Viljoen of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria said the South African government must become more engaged in addressing the conflict in South Sudan and act as a neutral party to help resolve the conflict.
Dr. Mispa Roux, the deputy director of SAIFAC urged South Africa’s government to use this opportunity to prove it is willing to act in conformity with international legal obligations to prevent the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity, prioritize the plight of the victims and not to submit to regional and national politics.
“This will restore South Africa’s reputation in the international community as a legitimate guardian ofhuman rights and a leader in preventing gross human rights violations”, stressed Roux.
The petition was signed by the South Africa Institute for Advanced Constitution, Public, Human Rights and International Law, Research Chair in International Law, University of Johannesburg (NRF), and The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, and The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.