ABRAHAM KUANY – South Sudan Civil Society Forum has reiterated calls for the African Union Commission to engage the recently formed coalition government in expediting the establishment processes of the hybrid court.
In April last year, the incumbent government, according to multiple media reports, hired an American lobby group to improve its relations with the US government, delay and ultimately block the establishment of the hybrid court, among others.
A move the Presidential Press Secretary – Ateny Wek Ateny declined to comment on.
However, days after the alleged media reports, US ambassador to South Sudan – Thomas Hushek – said he indeed met Ambassador Michael Ranneberger when he was in Juba to seal the 3-million-dollar deal with the government of South Sudan.
The revitalized peace agreement stipulates that there shall be a hybrid court in South Sudan – a key part of the peace deal, aimed at holding war criminals accountable in the conflict which has killed nearly 400,000 people and forced 4 million South Sudanese to flee their homes.
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.
However, since the formation of unity government, less or little has been mentioned in regard to Chapter 5 of the peace pace that stipulates the establishment of the court.
In a joint letter addressed to AU Peace and Security Council ahead of the 21 July session scheduled on South Sudan’s implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement, the coalition encouraged the council to use the session to consider the stalled establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
The alliance of civil organizations also appealed to the AU Commission to take unilateral action to enable the court’s creation immediately.
“The efforts to establish the court would signal the AU’s commitment to implementing its 2020 theme, “Silencing the Guns.” Delays in establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan threaten the future of the peace deal and protection of civilians and prevent survivors and families of victims from seeking justice for themselves and their loved ones” reads the statement.
In March 2019, the head of the National Police Service Special Protection Unit called for the establishment of the hybrid court as stipulated in the peace deal.
Colonel James Dak said impunity with regards to gender-based violence, alleged genocide during the violence, the abuse of the criminal justice system and the rule of law continue unabated in the country.
In 2018, Amnesty International said a delay in the formation of a hybrid court in South Sudan affects the ability to get accurate evidence to hold perpetrators accountable.
Other rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have also lambasted the African Union and the South Sudanese authorities for having made little or no progress at all in setting up the court.
The Transitional Government, recently revitalized has argued in the past that seeking to “out” perpetrators of violence at the time of negotiating peace may discourage them from accepting signing an 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.”