The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday extended the sanctions it had imposed on six South Sudan generals — three from both sides — for their roles in war crimes and blocking the implementation of the peace agreement.
Pressure is mounting on the African Union to constitute the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, to try those who committed war crimes and the human rights abuses that have continued even after the peace agreement was signed last August.
The UN sanctions include travel bans and assets freezes, which will continue till July 1, 2017, when the term of the UN Panel of Experts that monitors compliance of the sanctions regime in South Sudan expires.
Chapter 5 of the South Sudan Peace Agreement signed in August 2015 tasked the AU Commission to establish a Hybrid Court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals bearing the responsibility for violations of international law and or South Sudanese law, committed from 15 December 2013 through the end of the Transitional Period.
Human Rights report
A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said South Sudan’s top army commanders should investigate abuses committed by its forces, which continue in Wau and Western Bahr el Ghazal regions.
Daniel Bekele, HRW Africa director, said the commanders could face international and criminal sanctions if they don’t take concrete action in accordance with the law; the abuses in the Western Bahr el Ghazal region reportedly took place during government counter-insurgency operations that intensified after a peace deal was signed last year.
According to HRW, South Sudan government soldiers carried out attacks on civilians in and around the country’s town of Wau. The organisation alleges that the soldiers killed, tortured, raped and detained civilians, and looted and burned down homes in the attacks.
“The new government should immediately call a halt to the abuse, free all arbitrarily detained civilians, and support the creation of a war crimes court that can investigate and prosecute those responsible, including at the highest levels of authority,” said Mr Bekele.
The report of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, which was chaired by former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo and released in October 2015, found that the two warring factions committed war crimes in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal towns.