International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

U.N. Rights Officer Kicked Out of South Sudan

There have been some interesting discussions about Sudan on this blog—last week, someone posted about South Sudan’s cooperation with the ICC—and I wanted to point out something that happened today that adds to our discourse on the subject. As the New York Times reports, a United Nations human rights officer has been expelled by the South Sudan government following a UN report that raises allegations against the nation’s army.

The report accuses the South Sudan army of committing atrocities while trying to disarm civilians after a wave of ethnic violence in Dec. 2011 and Jan. 2012. The violence started after border clashes in Jonglei State, which led to the death of thousands and the displacement of many more. According to the Times, the South Sudan government condemned the report as one-sided, and the expelled human rights officer is waiting in Entebbe, Uganda for word from the UN.

The main thing I wanted to point out about this situation is its relevance to our Peskin reading on “Beyond Victor’s Justice”. As a recap, Peskin argues that no matter how hard international courts push for impartiality, the “winning” side of a conflict (the side ends up in control of the country) can create challenges that can prevent their prosecution. Although the situation in South Sudan—a country that was embroiled in civil war for two decades and is now composed of warring factions—is not a clear-cut case study for victor’s justice, it exemplifies the willingness and ability for transitional countries to prevent the UN or ICC from investigating and prosecuting both sides of a conflict.

One thing I’d be interested to see is how the international community deals with South Sudan’s unwillingness to cooperate over the next year or so. Civil society is already showing some concern—the Times quotes a representative from Human Rights Watch saying he hopes this situation “does not represent a step backward for human rights in South Sudan.” But international governments have the opportunity to make the most impact—will they use techniques that have been tried in the past, like memberships to diplomatic and trade organizations as bargaining chips for South Sudanese cooperation? Or are there more gentile actions that can be taken to get human rights officers back on the ground at a faster pace?

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