US official says accountability key to S. Sudan peace

Director of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Global Criminal Justice Rapp is in South Sudan to establish facts about possible crimes against humanity committed during the ongoing crisis.

US official says accountability key to S. Sudan peace

World Bulletin/News Desk

A senior American official underlined Thursday the need for a genuine accountability in order to bring about peace in war-torn South Sudan which has been ravaged by months of fighting between government troops and rebels.

"We still have tens of thousands of people displaced and afraid of returning to their homes and probably would unless there is justice, unless those responsible for crimes against their family members, against their neighbors, against their friends are held accountable," Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, Director of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Global Criminal Justice, told a news briefing at the U.S. embassy in Juba.

"The challenge for us all is to ensure accountability for these crimes and ensure a stable and everlasting peace," he added.

Rapp is in South Sudan to establish facts about possible crimes against humanity committed during the ongoing crisis.

"U.N. human rights officers have found evidence that both the government and the opposition forces have committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, rape, targeted violence at civilians often on an ethnic basis, spreading terror among the civilian population among other crimes," he said.

"The U.S. government agrees with those reports that both the government and the opposition have committed terrible crimes against civilians," Rapp added.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice-president Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow his regime.

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have since been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, leading to an increasingly dire humanitarian situation for large swathes of the country's population.

In recent months, the warring camps have held on-again, off-again peace talks in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a Djibouti-based East African trade bloc. 

Local Accountability

Ambassador Rapp met earlier Thursday with several government officials, including those from the office of the president.

"We know there are domestic efforts as I have been speaking today to the minister of justice and to the legal advisor to His Excellency President Salva Kiir and also to persons involved in the human rights processes here," he told reporters.

"I have seen their reports substantially supporting the same conclusion and the challenge for all of us is to ensure that there is accountability for all these crimes," added the American official.

"Finding a way to achieve this accountability is critical for a stable and everlasting peace," Rapp insisted.

"One thing I heard today that was very important from the legal advisor to the president, Telar Ring Deng, is that this time there cannot be a general amnesty and those who committed crimes will face serious consequences," he recalled.

Rapp said the best way the accountability should be made is through the South Sudanese justice system.

"We will take efforts to ensure that the independent investigations are completed," he added.

"We know we have one led by former chief justice (John Wol) Makec, we support those efforts and we also support the investigations of the African Union led by former president [Olusegun] Obasanjo of Nigeria," said the American official.

"We are looking forward to detailed reports being issued by the African Union," he added, expecting the report to be made public soon.

Asked about his take on the issue of power sharing between the warring parties, Rapp suggested this "will not bring peace to this country, it will in fact indicate that in the future acts of violence could be rewarded."

"A genuine peace requires elements of accountability and that is why I was pleased with the top leaders here that they envisage a peace plan including accountability and justice," he added.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Ekim 2014, 22:08

Muhammed Öylek

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