REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN: Arms embargo, sanctions fail at UN Security Council

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28 Dec 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

The United Nations Security Council’s failure to approve a resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and placed a travel ban and asset freeze on three senior South Sudanese leaders was deeply disappointing, seven non-governmental groups said today.

The measure failed to gain the nine votes needed to pass, with seven in favour and eight abstentions.

“South Sudanese civilians had a reasonable expectation that the Security Council would make good on its long-standing threat to impose an arms embargo and extend sanctions to some of the senior leaders who have been responsible for grave human rights abuses,” said John Prendergast, founding director at the Enough Project.

Amnesty International, Control Arms, Enough Project, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Humanity United, Human Rights Watch and PAX issued the statement jointly.

African Union and UN investigators have documented war crimes, including killings and rape of civilians, and forced recruitment of children by the warring parties in South Sudan since the conflict began on 15 December, 2013. In the last few months there has been an increase in incitement to violence, hate speech by senior leaders, and targeting of civilians, sometimes based on ethnicity, in parts of the country that were previously untouched by the civil war.

The coalition is especially concerned that the Security Council was unable to come together and take action recommended by the UN’s senior leadership, including the Secretary-General and his adviser on genocide prevention.

“We hope this effort can be revived in January when we have a new Security Council, with five new members.”

The coalition noted that some Security Council members cited President Salva Kiir’s December 2016 announcement of an inclusive national dialogue as a reason for not supporting the resolution. However, given the very limited role that non-governmental groups, faith leaders, and women had in the process leading up to the August 2015 peace agreement, and the severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in South Sudan, these assurances need to be tested.

“In a country where the media cannot report on the political situation and many civil society advocates have fled to neighbouring countries for their safety – who is left to participate in a dialogue?” said David Abramowitz, managing director of Humanity United.

Following today’s vote, the coalition said that the Intergovernmental Authority in Development (IGAD) should take greater responsibility for ending crimes under international law and other serious violations and human rights abuses and the impunity for these crimes in South Sudan.

The coalition asked the Security Council to strengthen its efforts to work with the AU and the regional security mechanism, IGAD, to end abuses against civilians, prevent further loss of civilian lives and support efforts to combat impunity in South Sudan by swiftly establishing a competent, independent and impartial hybrid court.

23 December 2016

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