The African Union (AU) says a special court will be set up to try war crimes suspects in South Sudan, which has been hit by a brutal conflict since 2013.

The move is aimed at promoting an “African solution” to the conflict in the world’s youngest state, which became independent in 2011, it said.

An inquiry has found that both government and rebel forces have committed atrocities, the AU added.

Despite the signing of a peace deal last month, conflict has continued.

The formation of the court is part of the deal President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed following intense diplomatic pressure from regional leaders, reports the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza from the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Thousands have been killed in the fighting over the last 21 months and more than 2.2 million people forced from their homes.
South Sudan does not recognise the International Criminal Court (ICC), which investigates atrocities in member states or if a case is referred to it by the UN Security Council.

The AU is also extremely critical of the ICC, accusing it of failing to operate impartially – a charge it denies.

A special court, set up by Senegal with the AU’s backing, is currently trying Chad’s former President Hissene Habre for alleged atrocities committed during his rule.
The South Sudan court will use a mix of international and South Sudanese law.

In a statement, the AU said a commission of inquiry, formed last year under the chairmanship of Nigeria’s ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, found evidence that both sides to the conflict in South Sudan had been involved in murder, torture, looting and sexual violence.

However, there was no evidence of genocide, it added.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the setting up of the court at a high-level meeting on South Sudan held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“Horrific crimes have been committed against civilians in this war. The social fabric of South Sudan has been shattered. To mend it, the provisions in the peace agreement related to justice, accountability and reconciliation must be implemented in full,” he said.

The conflict erupted after Mr Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Mr Machar, of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then formed a rebel army to fight the government.


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