JUBA – A group of international human rights lawyers are urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in South Sudan which began with the outbreak of the country’s most devastating civil wars in December 2013.
In a statement below, former UN rights commissioner in South Sudan Kenneth Scott and Toby Cadman are asking “the ICC Prosecutor, inter alia, to examine the massive deportation of more than one million South Sudanese into northern Uganda, as a crime against humanity, as well as the war crime of ordering the displacement of a civilian population, and other related and connected crimes, including widespread killing and sexual violence.”
Below is the full statement!
Human Rights Lawyers, Victims Call for ICC Inquiry on South Sudan
International human rights lawyer, war crimes prosecutor and former UN Commissioner on Human Rights in South Sudan Kenneth Scott and the international justice organization Guernica 37 announced today that they have filed a detailed submission with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, seeking, on behalf of thirty-one South Sudanese victim-survivors and others, an extensive ICC inquiry into atrocities, crimes against humanity and war crimes in, and concerning, South Sudan and the tragic conflict that commenced in December 2013 and continues today. The conflict — involving widespread and systematic human rights violations, horrific and sustained violence and massive gender-based and sexual abuse1 — has claimed approximately 400,000 lives2 and resulted in countless suffering, both physical and mental, widespread property destruction, tremendous socio-economic loss and the displacement, both internally and across borders, of approximately one-third of South Sudan’s population.3 Severe food insecurity and malnutrition stalk the country, while starvation is used as a method of war.
Throughout the conflict, there has been no accountability for any of the gross violations or abuses, despite widespread international condemnation. While both former UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and the African Union’s own Commission of Inquiry called for the creation of an international hybrid court as long ago as 12 May 20144 and 15 October 2014,5 respectively, and two signed peace agreements (in August 2015 and September 2018) have agreed, promised and “guarantee[d]” the establishment of such a court,6 the court, despite limited, from time-to- time sporadic steps, is nowhere in sight and South Sudan’s deep, historical culture of impunity continues — which tragically promotes and encourages more violence and destruction. Nor, unfortunately, is there any current or mid-term will and/or capacity in South Sudan’s civilian or military justice systems to investigate or bring what will inevitably be complex prosecutions concerning mid- to high-level political, governmental and military officials and officers, as well as other senior responsible persons.7 If the will, capacity and genuine intention were present, serious criminal mechanisms would already have been at work years ago. The infamous Terrain Hotel case (involving a small number of low-level soldiers) was a one-off situation, due to international victims and tremendous international pressure, with that trial not replicated more widely (and having its own deficiencies).
“The South Sudanese people deserve better than this,” said Mr. Scott. “They deserve justice, as an essential, important step on the path to a stable, peaceful, more prosperous country.”
The detailed 108-page submission (plus annexes) asks the ICC Prosecutor, inter alia, to examine the massive deportation of more than one million South Sudanese into northern Uganda, as a crime against humanity, as well as the war crime of ordering the displacement of a civilian population, and other related and connected crimes, including widespread killing and sexual violence. An essential basis for the ICC’s engagement concerning South Sudan is the ICC’s jurisdictional decisions concerning the human rights violations and crimes concerning Myanmar, which, like South Sudan, is not an ICC State-Party.
The ICC determined that it has jurisdiction over Myanmar-related crimes where some part of the crimes (including, at least concerning some crimes, the consequences or effects of such crimes) were committed, occurred or completed on the territory of an ICC State-Party, in that case, Bangladesh. Based on the crimes of deportation and persecution as crimes against humanity — at least some parts of which were committed, continued or completed in Bangladesh, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber III authorized the ICC Prosecutor — following a preliminary examination — to open a full investigation concerning Myanmar crimes which, once authorized, was, and is not limited in scope to only the preliminary examination crimes. A dramatically similar analysis applies to South Sudan, involving the widespread, violent displacement of more than one million South Sudanese into northern Uganda, an ICC State-Party, so that the same jurisdictional analysis applies, giving the ICC clear jurisdiction to pursue these important matters. “There is clear evidence that crimes against humanity and horrible war crimes have been committed, and excuse after excuse, delay after delay, impunity after impunity cannot be tolerated,” said Scott.
Guernica 37’s Toby Cadman said: “There is a legal and evidential basis for opening a preliminary examination in relation to the situation in South Sudan — more than that, there is an obligation to do so. In a conflict which has lasted more than six years and has seen more than a million and a half civilians take refuge across international borders and more than two million internally displaced, there is a demand that victims see justice.”
As noted, the confidential submission is supported, inter alia, by thirty-one victim-survivors, all South Sudanese women, almost all of whom were raped or sexually assaulted in connection with their displacement, all of whom have provided their tragic, heart-wrenching stories. Many men were killed or disappeared, as entire families and communities were displaced and homes destroyed, generally along ethnic or tribal lines. Witnesses are more than willing to tell their stories — they just have to be asked.
Mr. Scott concluded: “Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. In South Sudan, we need to give justice a chance. And really mean it.”
Kenneth Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org
Toby Cadman, email@example.com