This post was written by guest blogger and Enough Project intern Emily Brandon.
In recent weeks, South Sudanese civil society organizations have taken a public stand demanding more action against the atrocities being committed in their country. Although the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) called for the creation of an AU-led Commission of Inquiry in December 2013, the appointment of members was stalled until the first week of March 2014.
In response, Enough joined 26 other South Sudanese and International Non-Governmental Organizations in an open letter to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission,Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, advocating for movement towards accountability. Enough also supported a similar push from civil society organizations to the members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Both letters call on the ACHPR to issue a resolution condemning the serious human rights violations that have taken place by government and opposition forces in South Sudan since December. Signatories requested the immediate support and establishment of the Commissions of Inquiry, comprehensively addressing the lack of accountability and noting that “time is of the essence as evidence of atrocities are rapidly disappearing.” Additionally, the letters call upon the ACHPR to promote a culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law within South Sudan, “foster[ing] a sense that there are no consequences for violence.” The letter to members of the ACHRP argues that by calling on South Sudan to ratify and implement regional and international human rights frameworks such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the ACHPR has an opportunity to play a significant role by “beginning to call for broad human rights reform.”
On March 7, the AU announced the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry members at the AU headquarters in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia in a press release. H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the Commission of Inquiry, as mandated by the AUPSC, is to
“Investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan, and make recommendations on the best way and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation, and healing among all South Sudanese communities.”
The five-member Commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, will serve as a vital accountability mechanism to ensure that serious violations of humanitarian law in South Sudan are properly investigated. In an encouraging step, the Commission of Inquiry held its first meeting on March 12, 2014.
Signatories hope that the two letters will pressure the ACHPR to “adopt a resolution during its 15th Extraordinary Session being held from March 7-14 2014 in Banjul, The Gambia.”