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'Dire human rights situation in South Sudan'

Interview: Daniel Pelz July 8, 2016

Violence is continuing in South Sudan, five years after independence. The world's youngest nation has a history of unrest, killings and displacement. DW spoke to Amnesty International about the current situation.

A young child carries another across muddy ground between tents at a Protection of Civilians site GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A.-G. Farran

DW: South Sudan became independent five years ago. From a human rights point of view - is there any reason to celebrate?

Nyagoah Tut: The very fact that South Sudan is an independent country. We cannot rule out that there is a lot to celebrate. But from a human rights and humanitarian perspective, there is a lot that should not be celebrated. Five years of independence have been very challenging in terms of how people have been treated. The December 2013 conflict has contributed to a dire human rights situation. We have documented abuse of international law by forces affiliated to the goverment of South Sudan and the SPLM in opposition. A peace agreement was signed in August 2015 and steps are being taken towards its implemention, but there is still a long way to go.

Who are the main perpetrators - the goverment or the rebels?

None of the parties involved in the 2013 conflict can claim innocence. We have documented atrocities committed by both sides. We have documented mass killings, looting of civilian property, widespread sexual and gender-based violence, the abduction of women and girls, unlawful killings committed by both sides and other forces that are affiliated to either side.

Is there anything the international community could do to step up the pressure on both sides to respect human rights?

There is a lot that needs to be done. With the implementation of the peace agreements, both parties seem to be further and further away from making decisions that are in the interests of the South Sudanese themselves. There are still incidents of violence all across the country. Just recently, thousands of people were displaced in [the city of] Wau, fleeing violence and attacks against their homes. There is a lot that needs to be done to ensure concerted pressure on both parties and support in the implementation of the peace agreements. The international community needs to take strong steps to ensure accountability for the crimes that have been committed.

A portrait of Amnesty's South Sudan campaigner Nyagoah Tut. Copyright: Amnesty International/Andreas Koob
Nyagoah Tut is Amnesty International's South Sudan campaigner.Image: Amnesty International/Andreas Koob

What do you want the international community to do in practical terms?

The African Union Commission has been mandated with the establishment of a hybrid court. The peace agreement also contains the establishment of various bodies, including a reparations authority and structures around a permanent constitution-making process. These bodies need support - technical support and financial support. The international community needs to support these bodies and also emphasize upon both parties and the African Union that urgent steps need to be taken to set up these bodies to remind parties and their forces that they will be held accountable for the atrocities committed.

Do you see any positive developments by local communities or civil society to improve the human rights situation?

One thing that comes across during this conflict is the strength and resilience of communities. South Sudan has endured decades of conflict. Even today, we see a lot of efforts at communal level. Efforts towards trauma healing, giving support to each other during these traumatic and violent incidents. We've also seen a lot of demand for accountability from communities. There are efforts by civil society groups to document what has taken place during the conflict and to also take steps to remind the leadership of South Sudan and the international community that the South Sudanese want accountability, and accountability that needs to be seen as a way towards long lasting stability.

Nyagoah Tut is Amnesty International's campaigner on Sudan and South Sudan.

Interview: Daniel Pelz