South Sudan’s peace watchdog has expressed concern over delays in establishing a hybrid court, slowing the country’s attempt to investigate past atrocities.
The Court is among the institutions that were to be set up under Chapter 5 of the Revitalized Agreement on the Cessation of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-JMEC), the 2018 peace accord that ended the war.
On Friday, the Revitalized Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) said the Court, made up of local and foreign judges, is key to verifying past accountability.
“It is concerning that no progress has been made towards the establishment of the other two transitional justice mechanisms, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the Compensation and Reparations Authority,” said Charles Tai Gituai, acting president of the RJMEC.
He spoke at the 23rd joint meeting of the board on Thursday, where he called on peace parties to put in place the mechanisms needed to establish the court.
“I therefore call on the revitalized unity government to consider taking steps towards the establishment of these two essential transitional justice institutions.”
According to the peace agreement, South Sudan, together with the African Union, is to set up a Hybrid Court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute those suspected of having committed crimes since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013.
The court was mooted as part of efforts to reconcile a country that had been ethnically divided by nearly seven years of civil war.
But its creation has been a controversial topic, with authorities in Juba, led by President Salva Kiir, saying it could reopen old wounds.
In 2019, President Kiir engaged a US lobby to improve his relationship with the US government, delay and ultimately block the establishment of the hybrid court, among other things. The US government has spoken out in favor of justice and the need to punish the perpetrators of violence.
The country’s power-sharing transitional government is due to end in February, according to the timetable of the peace accord. But South Sudan faces an uphill battle to prepare for elections, prevent a relapse in violence and secure an elected government.