UN Watch Oral Statement
Human Rights Council, Special Session on South Sudan
14 December 2016
Thank you Mr. President.
UN Watch welcomes today’s special session on South Sudan. The unprecedented scale of the abuses occurring in the country warrants the urgent attention of the international community and a strong commitment to act and stop all human rights violations.
Three years of civil war have left South Sudan on “the cusp of full-scale genocide,” according to a recent report of the Council of Foreign Relations. At least 50,000 people have been killed, entire communities have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands of women and children have become refugees fleeing the violence. In addition, and equally alarming, the mass scale of sexual violence has targeted a large percentage of women and girls in the country, reaching “epic proportions.”
At the same time, the U.N. must lead by example. UN Watch is deeply concerned by reports of U.N. peacekeepers’ reluctance to protect civilians. In the middle of July, South Sudanese government soldiers raped dozens of ethnic Nuer women and girls just outside a United Nations camp where they had sought protection from renewed fighting, and at least two died from their injuries. In another incident, two armed soldiers in uniform dragged away a woman who was less than a few hundred meters from the U.N. camp’s western gate while armed peacekeepers on foot, in an armored vehicle and in a watchtower looked on. While we welcome the U.N.’s acknowledgement of “a lack of leadership on the part of key senior mission personnel” and the dismissal of the force commander, we hope that appropriate measures will be taken for the U.N. forces to protect the innocent civilians and not become accessories and guilty bystanders to these unprecedented crimes.
Mr. President, UN Watch does not want to stay only in words; we demand immediate and meaningful action in support of the victims. Strengthening the U.N. presence in the country and instructing them to protect civilians would be an important start.