19 November 2010 – A one-day forum on the state of human rights in Southern Sudan found that little or no progress had been achieved in combating some longstanding human rights violations in the region.
Organized by the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission in conjunction with the UNMIS Human Rights section in the regional capital of Juba, the forum was opened by Riek Machar, vice-president of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS).
"There are numerous reasons for Sudan's civil war," said the GoSS vice-president. "But the core to us was fundamental rights, which is left to all Southern Sudanese citizens to exercise during the upcoming referendum process."
Mr. Machar acknowledged that the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the Southern Sudan Police Service and other state security forces still commit arbitrary arrest and other human rights violations. But he told the forum that such behavior "will not and shall never be tolerated anymore, and any person involved will be dealt with properly".
The forum drew representatives of civil society, the diplomatic community based in Juba, the GoSS and the UN. It began with a roundtable discussion of human rights concerns involving representatives of government and civil society. The afternoon session was a public event that featured speeches and the performance of songs and skits with a human rights theme.
The Secretary-General of the Southern Sudan Law Society said that human rights safeguards enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan were often honored in the breach across the country's 10 southern states.
"Some of the clear violations such as assault, torture and long periods of detention without trial were left unquestioned by the concerned authority," said Dong Samuel Luak, adding that many victims have little hope of obtaining compensation or redress through Southern Sudan's still fledgling judicial system.
Mr. Luak urged the GoSS to enforce that bill of rights through existing government institutions and introduce some judicial reforms to better address human rights abuses.
Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan Jasbir Singh Lidder told the forum that respect for human rights is central to peace and stability in any country.
"Southern Sudanese have been looking for such basic rights," he noted. "Addressing these human rights issues require total transparency and a well-structured supreme court in order to deal with the issues of impunity and accountability."