By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KHARTOUM, Sudan—Southern Sudan, which achieved its independence from Sudan just last year after several decades of civil war, has just expelled a United Nations human rights officer after the South Sudan government objected to a United Nations report raising allegations of atrocities carried out by South Sudan’s army.
The head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson, described this expulsion as a “breach of the legal obligations” of South Sudan’s government “under the charter of the United Nations.” Ms. Johnson said that human rights monitoring “must be protected.” She also noted that, “human rights violations and discrimination were at the core of the South Sudanese struggle during decades of civil war.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, noted in a press release, “I urge the government of South Sudan to reverse its expulsion order and find a solution to this unfortunate episode, which contradicts the government’s publicly stated commitment human rights.”
The United States has also condemned the expulsion. Mark Toner, the Spokesman of the United States State Department noted that the US government fully supported the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The Mission was put if effect to strengthen the government, institutions, provide humanitarian relief, and also to monitor, mitigate and prevent conflict throughout the country.
This is actually the second time that a United Nations human rights investigator has been coerced to leave South Sudan. A little over a year ago, in August 2011, the former head of the United Nations human rights division, Benedict Sannoh, was attacked and badly beaten after he was taken from his hotel room by ten South Sudanese police officers. They left Sannoh at a hospital after the attack.
The attack occurred just after Sannoh had refused to allow the police officers to search his bags and enter his hotel room in the country’s capital of Juba. His injuries were so severe that he spent five days in the hospital and was later sent abroad for future treatment.
This expulsion is even more devastating with the knowledge of the human rights violations that occur against blacks in many regions of both Sudan and Southern Sudan. The Southern Sudanese government is also targeting human rights defenders and other activists for speaking out against these violations.
United Nations sources, named the officer who was expelled as Sandra Beidas, and further noted that the expulsion may have been related to an August report accusing the army of torturing, raping and killing civilians.
For further information, please see:
Sudan Tribune – Top UN Official Urges South Sudan to Reverse Expulsion of Human Rights Officer – 10 November 2012
All Africa – Race-Based Violence and Torture – 8 November 2012
The Guardian – South Sudan Expels UN Human Rights Worker – 5 November 2012
The New York Times – South Sudan Expels UN Rights Officer – 5 November 2012