South Sudan: African Union Peace and Security Council stands in the way of justice in South Sudan

The African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council has failed the thousands of South Sudanese victims who are waiting for truth and justice by not making public the report of the Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, said Amnesty International today. 

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and Chair of the Commission of Inquiry, was scheduled to present the report to the AU Peace and Security Council yesterday evening. But, in a move shocking to those committed to accountability, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, tabled a motion to “defer” presentation and consideration of the report pending the finalisation of a peace agreement. Presidents Zuma of South Africa and Museveni of Uganda seconded the motion. 

“What is outrageous is that the Peace and Security Council shelved the report indefinitely before its members even received copies or heard Obasanjo’s remarks,” said Amnesty International’s African Regional Research and Advocacy Director Netsanet Belay.

“The AU seems to have forgotten that one of its founding principles is the condemnation and rejection of impunity.” 

Over the past year, all parties to the conflict in South Sudan have committed crimes under international law, including attacks on civilians often based on ethnicity or perceived political allegiance, sexual violence and wide-spread destruction and looting of civilian property. 

The Commission of Inquiry was established by the AU in March 2014. It was mandated to investigate human rights abuses and violations by parties to the conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on accountability, reconciliation and healing in South Sudan. 

“The Commission of Inquiry’s findings and its recommendations on accountability could be a critical step towards ending the impunity that continues to fuel the conflict in South Sudan,” said Belay. 

Members of the AU Commission of Inquiry and its investigators conducted multiple visits to South Sudan and also met with South Sudanese living outside of the country. 

Twenty-one South Sudanese civil society organizations sent a petition to the Peace and Security Council on Wednesday calling for the report to be published immediately. 

“The failure to publish the report is a slap in the face of the hundreds of South Sudanese who took time—sometimes at significant personal risk—to tell members of the Commission of Inquiry what they witnessed,” said Belay. 

The Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) signed a cessation of hostilities over one year ago. Despite this, fighting has continued. 

Negotiations being brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have failed to result in a peace agreement. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who tabled the motion to “defer” presentation of the Commission of Inquiry’s report, currently serves as IGAD’s Chair. 

In a press statement yesterday, the SPLM/A-IO reiterated its call for the report to be published.