AU urged to speed up establishment of South Sudan’s hybrid court

The Human Rights Watch has urged the African Union Commission to engage South Sudan’s unity government to speed up the establishment of the hybrid court as stipulated in the 2018 peace agreement.

As per the peace accord, the African Union is to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing crimes since the conflict began in December 2013.

In a statement at the 67th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on Tuesday seen by The EastAfrican, the rights group urged the continental body to initiate investigations into allegations of human rights violations.

“We call on the African Commission to urge all States across Africa, notably Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Guinea, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria to initiate prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations.

“These violations include destruction of property, extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, and other abuses committed by members of the security force,” HRW said.

In July this year, South Sudanese civil society reiterated calls to the African Union to help form a hybrid court that will address issues of injustice.

The South Sudan Civil Society Forum, a lobby of activists in the country, said the formation of a hybrid court should be speeded up to enhance judicial independence.

The court, to be assembled by local and foreign judges from African countries, was mooted as part of efforts to reconcile a country that had been divided along ethnic lines by nearly seven years of s civil war.

The revitalised peace agreement, a peace deal that created a government of national unity last February, stipulates that there shall be a hybrid court in South Sudan – aimed at holding war perpetrators accountable in the conflict which has killed an estimated 400,000 people and forced 4 million South Sudanese to flee their homes, according to UN figures.

But the creation of the court has been a controversial subject, with authorities in Juba, led by President Salva Kiir, arguing it could open up old wounds.

Since the formation of unity government in February this year, which brought together Kiir and his erstwhile nemesis Riek Machar, little has been mentioned in regard to Chapter 5 of the peace pace that stipulates the establishment of the court.

The Transitional Government of National Unity, as the new structure is known, has argued in the past that seeking to “out” perpetrators of violence at the time of negotiating peace may discourage them from accepting or abiding by the agreement.

It argued for “peace before justice.”

The government often dismisses reports of rights violations, saying they are “clearly orchestrated to tarnish the image of the government.”