It is important that any political solution takes into account the needs of everyday South Sudanese people, especially marginalized groups like women.
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 10, 2018 – The signing of a peace agreement between South Sudan’s warring parties is a hopeful sign that a sustainable solution can be found for a conflict that has had tragic consequences for millions of civilians.
It is important that any political solution takes into account the needs of everyday South Sudanese people, especially marginalized groups like women, said Dominik Stillhart, the global director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“The human cost of continued conflict in South Sudan has led to humanitarian catastrophe inside the country. That’s not hyperbole. That’s fact,” said Stillhart, who visited South Sudan last week to speak with residents and view ICRC’s operations.
Civilians should not bear the brunt of conflict, but in South Sudan they often do. So far this year, the ICRC has admitted 69 children and 47 women into our hospitals with injuries from weapons. Untold thousands of children are being deprived of school and many are separated from their families.
The conflict has been particularly brutal on women. They are left to fight for the survival of their families, fleeing with their children and foraging for food. Thousands have endured rape or sexual assault. The ICRC calls on those at the negotiating table to make sure any agreement takes into account their needs, as well as those of other marginalized groups.
“Without a ceasefire, the past five years tell us that scorched-earth tactics will likely continue, as we have seen continuous and systemic disregard for international humanitarian law and the civilians that the law protects,” Stillhart said. “Aid organizations can provide relief but cannot end the violence and displacement the South Sudanese people have endured for five years — only a political solution can.”
Facts and Figures:
• From January – June 2018 the ICRC distributed 29,700 monthly household food rations to more than 223,000 people, gave 158,000 people seeds and tools for farming and 103,000 people fishing kits.
• ICRC performed 1,735 surgical interventions, evacuated 316 people with conflict-related injuries, provided consultations for more than 75,000 patients, and improved access to safe drinking water to some 273,000 people, and visited nearly 3,600 detainees.
• Together with the South Sudan Red Cross this year we have facilitated more than 29,000 phone calls between family members and their loved ones. We have also physically reunited 33 people, including children, with their families.
• We spread knowledge and respect for International Humanitarian Law. More than 1,500 military personnel and nearly 1,500 police personnel have been trained this year.
• The ICRC has been permanently active in South Sudan for 38 years.
The judges delivered their verdict today and handed down lengthy prison terms for murder, rape and other crimes.
JUBA, South Sudan, September 6, 2018 – The finding of a military court that 10 soldiers were guilty of committing violence against civilians at the Terrain Hotel in Juba, South Sudan, has finally delivered justice for the survivors and the family of the journalist murdered in the attack.
The judges delivered their verdict today and handed down lengthy prison terms for murder, rape and other crimes. The court also ordered the government to pay damages to the victims.
The victims and survivors of this horrific attack in July 2016 deserved justice and that has been served today. However, according to evidence raised during the trial, questions remain about whether accountability for these crimes reached high enough up the chain of command.
While the guilty verdicts handed down will not take away the pain and suffering caused by the appalling acts of violence carried out by these criminals, it is important that they have finally been held publicly accountable. The outcome of the trial also sends a powerful message to other would-be offenders, including members of the armed forces, that they will be prosecuted and punished for such violence.
The witnesses and survivors demonstrated true courage and patience by participating in the judicial process which began back in May 2017. There were some significant challenges throughout the process, including the detention conditions of the defendants, some impediments to the defendants’ access to counsel, and the trial of these crimes against civilians in a military rather than civilian court.
However, as the trial progressed, there was a willingness to adopt new procedures, including allowing testimony to be given via video link to facilitate witnesses and survivors unable or unwilling to attend the trial in person and using closed sessions to prevent public disclosure of witness’ identities.
This trial brought to justice offenders involved in the particular case of the Terrain Hotel where international workers were targeted. However, there remains the broader problem of widespread sexual and gender-based violence against South Sudanese women and children. Most cases go unreported and there remains widespread impunity.
UNMISS is committed to working with authorities in South Sudan to address some of the challenges observed during this trial and support efforts to improve the independence and effectiveness of the justice system so that many more victims of sexual and other violence can also have their day in court.