August 4, 2021(NAIROBI) – The African Union Commission’s failure to advance justice for the countless victims of atrocities in South Sudan raises concerns about the regional body’s commitment to accountability, rights groups said.
On August, at least 34 South Sudanese, regional, and international rights organizations write to the AU Commission demanding accountability for crimes committed during more than five years of civil war in the country.
The people of South Sudan “entrusted the AU to ensure that justice is delivered and contributes to ending the culture of impunity,” said the letter.
It added, “The AU’s apparent inaction raises serious questions about the AU’s credibility not only in atrocity prevention in South Sudan, but across the African continent where many are looking to you for justice.”
In January, South Sudan government announced that it had approved the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, along with truth telling and compensation mechanisms, provided for under the 2018 peace agreement.
The agreement ended the country’s brutal civil war, which killed an estimated more than 400,000 people and displaced millions of civilians.
According to the rights group, despite the AU Commission’s promise to work with South Sudan government to create the court, no action has been taken.
The continental body, the rights groups said in the letter, also released a Transitional Justice Policy in 2019 that provides for justice and accountability for international crimes alongside other non-criminal measures to help rebuild societies that have suffered widespread violence, such as South Sudan.
“The current paralysis undermines the notion of African solutions to African problems, and risks signaling that the AU is unable and unwilling to exert leadership where it matters most for the people whom the AU represents,” the groups further said in the letter.
“The adoption of the AU Transitional Justice Policy will be meaningless if the AU does not act when it has taken on a lead role in advancing accountability, as it did in South Sudan,” it stressed.
The rights entities reiterated that it is incumbent on the AU Commission to take immediate action to show that it remains committed to the inherent right of the people of South Sudan to have justice.