The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) must boost efforts to protect civilians against the senseless violence that has plagued the country for over four years, and publicly report on the human rights situation, Amnesty International said today.
The UN Mission, whose mandate is set to be extended tomorrow, has a crucial role to play in providing much-needed civilian protection, and timely public reporting on the human rights situation in the country.
“With the continuing conflict and associated human rights violations in South Sudan, the possibility of civilians returning to their homes or being resettled remains remote. The Protection of Civilians (POC) sites are truly life-saving for hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of protection,” said Dr. Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“With its work in the country set to be extended, UNMISS must continue to guarantee that the civilian protection sites remain a safe haven amid the ongoing violence.”
Amnesty International is also calling on UNMISS to continue extending their protection to civilians in other areas outside the capital affected by fighting, and where humanitarian assistance is desperately needed.
The UN Mission must also improve its ability to protect South Sudanese civilians from sexual violence crimes both within and outside civilian protection sites.
In February 2018, a UN police unit charged with providing security for a civilian protection site in Wau, South Sudan, was accused of engaging in transactional sex with women under their protection. UNMISS recalled the 46-person unit and launched investigations into their conduct.
“UNMISS must take decisive action on all human rights violations within its own ranks and hold peacekeepers accountable following these accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse,” Joan Nyanyuki said.
UNMISS was originally established in 2011 with an initial mandate to help create the conditions for development in the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan. In March 2014, the Mission’s focus was shifted away from its peace and state-building functions to protecting civilians, facilitating humanitarian assistance and monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country.
Since the beginning of the conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, civilians have been subjected to untold suffering. Both government and opposition forces have used denial of food as a weapon of war, imposing restrictions on civilian access to food, and as a result contributing to severe food insecurity.
Despite the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 21 December 2017, government and opposition forces have continued fighting in different pockets of the country.