Amnesty: UN Security Council Must Not Lift South Sudan Arms Embargo

By Deng Machol

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, left, and first Vice President and Riek Machar, right .Photo credit Jok Solomun/Reuters

Juba – Amnesty International, a prominent international human rights watchdog has called on the UN Security Council not to lifted the UN arms embargo on South Sudan.

The Amnesty International said it could have dire consequences for human rights in the East Africa’s country.
The Amnesty International’s statement released on Monday comes ahead of a UN Security Council (UNSC) vote on 27 May to decide the fate of the arm embargo in South Sudan.The UN arms embargo on South Sudan currently expires on 31 May 2021.

On 13 July 2018, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan’s territory, legally obliging all UN member states to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms and related material – including ammunition, military vehicles and spare parts. 

The embargo also extends to technical support, training, financial or other assistance related to military activities.
Amnesty International said the UN Security Council must ensure a range of human rights benchmarks are met before the embargo can be lifted. 

These include an end to crimes under international law, reform of the National Security Service (NSS), and the establishment of a Hybrid Court to ensure accountability.

“South Sudan’s hard-won independence 10 years ago has sadly not resulted in respect for human rights. State security forces repress freedom of expression including media freedoms and both state security forces and armed groups continue to violate international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes, with impunity,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. 

“When the Security Council assesses keeping or lifting the arms embargo on South Sudan, it must, at a minimum, set the bar at halting these violations and ending impunity,” it said.

The watchdog group further accused the South Sudanese government of failing to protect civilians from being killed, displaced, and raped by armed groups and militias.

“South Sudan’s security situation remains volatile and implementation of the peace agreement has been delayed. Allowing more weapons into the mix by lifting the arms embargo would be a poor decision, especially knowing that the embargo was violated as recently as last year,” said Sarah.

The statement further called on the UNSC to pressure the government of South Sudan to stop allowing the NSS to operate outside its constitutional intelligence-gathering mandate and with impunity, by holding suspects of human rights violations to account and by ensuring the NSS is included in a rigorous security sector reform process.

A recent Amnesty International investigation revealed that the NSS conducts chilling surveillance without legal safeguards, in breach of the right to privacy. 
However, it added the NSS uses this information to arbitrarily arrest and illegally detain individuals and infringe on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly.

“Sudan’s National Security Service grossly oversteps its mandate by intimidating, arbitrarily detaining and, in some cases, disappearing and killing government critics and opponents. The Security Council should not ease sanctions until key reforms are implemented,” said Sarah. “Reforming this agency to end these abusive practices is crucial.”

The Security Council vote comes as the South Sudanese government continues to fail to protect civilians from being killed, displaced, and raped by armed groups and militias. 

According to the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, the perpetrators are often supported by both government and opposition forces, including through the illicit provision of small arms and light weapons.

The rights group urged the UNSC to include the establishment of an impartial, independent and effective “Hybrid Court”  and other “transitional justice” mechanisms as an additional benchmark to ensure that the perpetrators of such crimes will be brought to justice.

Though, the transitional government of national unity was formed earlier last year, the peace process remains fragile as well as the incidents of continued fighting between government troops, former opposition forces and a rebel group in the southern Equatoria region, which resulted in extrajudicial executions, torture and forcible displacement of civilians and destroyed civilian property.

Of recently, the UNSC says the security sector transformation, completion of transitional security arrangement, redeployment plans of the necessary unified forces, and graduation of unified forces must be accomplished before the end of this May. 

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