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Rights group criticizes Kiir’s amnesty to Machar

A human rights body has criticized President Salva Kiir for granting amnesty to his main opposition, Dr Riek Machar.

Dr Riek Machar’s group has been accused of gross violations including killing and other human rights abuses during the five-year conflict.

“South Sudan’s leaders have a history of providing de facto blanket amnesty to opponents as part of peace deals, even prior to the country’s independence in 2011,” read a statement by the Human Right Watch.

“The resulting lack of justice has contributed to the country’s deepening social and ethnic divisions, and fueled violence and abuses.”

Human Rights Watch has previously urged mediators and South Sudanese leaders to ensure that peace deals did not include any amnesty for serious crimes.

The group says amnesty for atrocities not only conflicts with South Sudan’s international obligations, but experience shows it is no way to build a lasting peace.

South Sudan leaders should not undermine their efforts to bring an end to the conflict with an amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the statement added.

“While the leaders may aim to provide assurances to opponents, they should make clear that the amnesty does not cover grave crimes by all parties since the conflict began,” said Elise Keppler, the associate international justice director of the group.

Despite provisions in the August 2015 peace agreement that envision a hybrid court to prosecute international crimes, the rights body says South Sudan’s transitional government has not made genuine progress toward setting up the court.

It said a memorandum of understanding on the court with the African Union has yet to be signed, and domestic legislation is yet to be adopted.

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Under that agreement, the AU Commission has the authority to establish the hybrid court with or without the engagement of the South Sudanese government.

The Human Rights Watch stressed that the AU should proceed with creating the court on its own, unless the memorandum of understanding is immediately signed.

The Office of the President is yet to comment on this matter.

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