Remarks Delivered at the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Side Event
Ambassador Keith Harper, Representative of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council
June 17, 2015
Thank you to the NGO sponsors for putting together this important forum and providing all of us an opportunity to hear from these important human rights defenders. I would like to thank Ms. Seeka for her courage.
The United States is deeply concerned and troubled about the situation in South Sudan. Our Special Envoy is here in Geneva today and our previous Ambassador to South Sudan was here last week. We are having a conversation about the need to take action with respect to the continuing human rights crisis in South Sudan. These conversations are vital because what we know from the reporting is that there have been abuses and violations on a massive scale on all sides in the ongoing conflict.
We have heard from the High Commissioner, the Secretary General, UNMISS, all credible bodies and individuals that have looked at the situation in South Sudan, and reported on the gravity of the human rights situation.
A sharp increase in conflict over the last several months has exacerbated the human rights crisis and added to the already enormous suffering of the South Sudanese people. As the conflict now stretches into its 19th month, the humanitarian catastrophe is only getting worse.
More than 2 million people have fled their homes since the onset of the violence—that’s more than 11 times the population of the City of Geneva. By July, roughly 4.6 million South Sudanese will face extreme, life-threatening hunger.
These conditions, this situation is wholly man-made and completely avoidable. The warring parties bear the full responsibility for the suffering of their people. South Sudan needs peace; it also needs a fresh start as a nation. It needs a transitional period during which all South Sudanese – with help from their regional and international partners – can work together under a transitional government to start a path toward reconciliation and accountability, to oversee security and governance reforms, leading ultimately to an election under a permanent constitution.
For these reasons, the United States has led the call for the OHCHR to create a mechanism to address South Sudan. We call on the Human Rights Council to focus the attention of the international community on the suffering of the South Sudanese people. We have proposed a resolution along with core group partners – the UK, Albania and Paraguay – to support the creation of a mandate holder for reporting on human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan.
The time for continuing delay is over. This is a time for action. This is the time to shine a light on the abusers and violators of human rights and provide a voice for those suffering so greatly in South Sudan.