S Sudan village

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed hope that the peace agreement signed by the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir will ensure an end to the ongoing conflict in the country.

The recently signed agreement allegedly includes justice provisions that offer a chance to break a decades-long cycle of brutal abuses endured by citizens since the unrest began in December 2013.

The agreement calls for establishment of a hybrid court staffed by South Sudanese and nationals of other African nations to try genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious crimes that violate international and Sudanese law committed since the start of crisis.

Additionally, the court will be distinct from the national system with primacy over South Sudan’s courts, and will not shelter government officials from being put on trial.

Both the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (Spla) and allied armed militia are accused of having committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, killing civilians based on their ethnicity, burning homes, raping women and girls, and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

"The court will be distinct from the national system with primacy over South Sudan’s courts."

As per the agreement, the African Union (AU) Commission will assume responsibility for setting up the court and manage its operations, including decisions on location, funding, appointments, and infrastructure.

The commission, which currently supports the Extraordinary African Chambers that is trying the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré in Senegal for crimes committed during his tenure, has already produced a report that is yet to be made public.

The watchdog has urged the commission to quickly collaborate with the UN and its other international partners to execute the agreement and set up the court.

Despite ending Sudan’s long civil war and leading to South Sudan’s independence, the 2005 peace agreement failed to provide criminal accountability for the horrific crimes that occurred during that 21-year conflict, and those responsible for serious abuses were never tried.

Image: UNMISS staff found that parts of Nhialdiu town in South Sudan’s Rubkona county, had been burned down, including these huts. Photo: © 2015 Private.