Informal Session with HC Zeid on Recent Missions
As delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva
November 30, 2016,
Thank you President Choi for inviting us here today to participate in this important briefing by the High Commissioner.
Mr. High Commissioner, the United States would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your Office for your on-going and critical work in promoting the protection of human rights around the world. Your voice is a vital one.
Specifically, we appreciate this informal briefing as it provides critical information to members of the Human Rights Council and is essential to effectively carrying out the work of this body. Your observations and reporting reveal a keen sense of the most pressing human rights concerns around the world.
In short, your periodic informal briefings ensure that the members of the Council receive the information necessary to best inform and guide our decision-making as we seek to put an end to human rights violations and abuses and to assist those in need.
The United States is alarmed by recent information regarding the current situation in South Sudan. We have credible information that the South Sudanese government is currently targeting civilians in Central Equatoria and preparing for large scale attacks in the coming days or weeks. We have confirmed that at least 1,901 homes in Equatoria have been destroyed since fighting began around two months ago. In the last two weeks, the government has mobilized at least 4,000 militia from other areas of South Sudan and is staging these fighters in Equatoria to begin conducting attacks.
This represents a substantial increase in the overall number of government affiliated soldiers in the region. In the last two months, we have seen a surge of refugees from Central Equatoria to northern Uganda, which has in a matter of weeks turned one small village in Uganda into the second largest refugee camp in the world. The scale and speed of this fleeing is greatly concerning and could well signal that the conflict is worse than we know given that the U.N. has been repeatedly denied access to this region.
On November 11, U.N. Special Advisor Dieng stated his belief there are ongoing grave human rights abuses in Equatoria and noted “the potential for genocide.” He also stated that the conflict has become an “outright ethnic war.”
Mr. High Commissioner, from your perspective, what additional steps can the international community take to address this rapidly deteriorating situation and restore the human rights of all South Sudanese?
What additional observations can you or your team share regarding the current situation there?
Thank you Mr. President.