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Rights Group Slams AU for Delaying Report on South Sudan Abuses

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (R) addresses a special UN Human Rights Council session on South Sudan in Sept. 2014, as South Sudan Justice Minister Paulino Waniwilla Unango listens.

Amnesty International has accused the African Union (AU) of failing victims of South Sudan's conflict by refusing to release a report into human rights abuses committed in the new nation during the past 13 months.

Amnesty International’s African Regional Research and Advocacy Director, Netsanet Belay, slammed as "outrageous" the announcement Friday by the AU Peace and Security Council, which commissioned the report, that it had decided "... to defer the consideration of the report of the Commission of Inquiry to a later date."

"The AU seems to have forgotten that one of its founding principles is the condemnation and rejection of impunity," Belay said.

The AU established the Commission of Inquiry for South Sudan last March and tasked it with investigating human rights abuses and violations by parties to the conflict in South Sudan, and making recommendations on accountability, reconciliation and healing.

The AU seems to have forgotten that one of its founding principles is the condemnation and rejection of impunity.
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International

​Amnesty International researcher Elizabeth Deng said former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who chaired the commission of inquiry, submitted his team's report to the AU Peace and Security Council in October.

"It was supposed to be discussed and a decision taken as to whether it should be made public," Deng said. "We think it should be made public to allow accountability processes to take their course."​

Obasanjo was scheduled to formally present the report to the Peace and Security Council on Thursday, Amnesty International said.

But, according to the rights group, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn proposed that presentation of the report be deferred "pending the finalization of a peace agreement." His motion was seconded by Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Hailemariam is chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional bloc that has been trying for more than a year to broker a peace deal for South Sudan.

Both sides accused

The U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all accused both sides in South Sudan's conflict of committing human rights abuses since the country plunged into violence in December 2013. Among the alleged rights violations are targeted ethnic killings, sexual violence and the widespread destruction of property.

Obasanjo told the U.N. Human Rights Council in September that he had "no doubt that there have been gross violations of human rights in South Sudan," and that they have been committed by both sides.

"No South Sudan leader can claim innocence," he said.

Deng said although the rights group has not seen the report, "From what we have heard, (it) names names."

Twenty-one South Sudanese civil society organizations sent a petition to the Peace and Security Council on Wednesday calling for the report to be published immediately, Amnesty International said.

Riek Machar, the former vice president of South Sudan and now the leader of the main opposition group fighting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, called last week for the report to be released. In a press statement released Thursday, Machar's rebel movement repeated that call.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon