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Juba - 5 Aug 2022

UN experts discuss report on conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan

Mother and daughter in Unity State, South Sudan, 2018. [Photo: OCHA/Jacob Zocherman]
Mother and daughter in Unity State, South Sudan, 2018. [Photo: OCHA/Jacob Zocherman]

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan Friday concluded its 10th visit o the country to review the findings and recommendations of the latest report on conflict-related sexual violence. 

The team, comprised of Yasmin Sooka, the commission's chair, and commissioners Andrew Clapham and Barney Afako, has been in the country from 2nd to 5th August to follow up on the findings and recommendations of their latest report, entitled “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South Sudan.”

In a statement by the commission, Sooka was quoted as saying, "The details of the report are harrowing to read, yet we see it is as important to stay true to the survivors’ accounts and to play our role in conveying these onward to their fellow South Sudanese, the Government of South Sudan as well as the international community." 

The report published in March 2022 in Geneva, details the widespread and systematic character of sexual violence, drawing on several years of interviews with survivors, witnesses, and their families, conducted in South Sudan and also in refugee settings. 

“We felt it was vital to visit South Sudan and to share our findings and recommendations on conflict-related sexual violence in the country. We are grateful to have been able to visit and to engage with key stakeholders,” added Sooka.

The report also found that all armed groups have been involved in sexual violence and that despite the signing of action plans to address it, and some nascent justice efforts, the state's overall response has so far not nearly matched the scale and severity of the crisis.

“We reiterate our call on the Government to publicly commit to a ‘zero tolerance policy’ to sexual violence, and to immediately signal genuine intentions by standing down and even prosecuting senior officials known to be perpetrators of sexual violence,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham.

The statement noted that the experts met with government officials, representatives of civil society, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the UN system as well as members of the diplomatic community and participated in a dialogue hosted by civil society organizations where the commission presented its recommendations, heard from stakeholders, discussed strategies and identified next steps.

“While the focus of our discussions this week has been on crimes taking place in relation to the country’s conflicts, this dire situation is set against a backdrop of broader patterns of impunity for serious crimes in South Sudan, particularly against women and girls who continue to carry a low status in society,” remarked Barney Afako. “Critical nation-building opportunities, particularly the long-awaited process to develop a national constitution, must be fully inclusive and participatory so as to establish a lasting framework to address drivers of conflict and the dehumanization of the country’s women and girls."