I thank Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, for their briefings.
The alarm raised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights cannot leave the Council indifferent. The situation in South Sudan is extremely serious. The country has become an area of lawlessness. Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are increasing, including deliberate attacks against civilians, large-scale sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers. A cycle of reprisals has begun, fuelled by public calls to violence and hatred. Radio broadcasts intensify that vicious circle by calling for women from opposing communities to be raped. We are dealing with a dangerous drift into communitarian conflict, which is being exploited by both parties.
The humanitarian situation is equally disturbing. The number of displaced persons and refugees is increasing by the day. Nearly 5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. In particular, the situation in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) camps, which are still home to almost 80,000 civilians, has deteriorated markedly. The rainy season will further exacerbate the situation, and there is a threat of famine.
Both parties are responsible for the tragic situation and the seriousness of the violations committed against the civil populations. The massacres of Bentiu and Bor have once again demonstrated that no one has a monopoly on violence or atrocities. We support the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediation efforts, but we must recognize that, today, the political process is at a standstill. While a ceasefire was signed on 23 January, the parties still refuse to engage in peace talks and act only on the basis of the territorial gains they can make, especially in oil-producing areas.
The Government of South Sudan, just like the opposition forces, must stop any incitement to hatred and the attacks against United Nations staff. The resumption of talks in Addis Ababa on 28 April is an encouraging sign. We call, as IGAD has, for Mr. Salva Kiir and Mr. Riek Machar to meet face-to-face to end the vicious cycle of massacres and decide on a one-month truce, which will be essential for the South Sudanese to sow their fields.
While the authorities have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens, the international community should take the measures necessary to ensure the protection of populations under threat. The Council cannot remain indifferent to the situation in the country. That is why France supports a rapid review of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). All its capacities must be dedicated to enhancing protection for civilians, respect for human rights and free access to humanitarian aid.
Noting the lack of political will to reach a peace agreement, we also believe that the Security Council should consider the establishment of a sanctions regime against individuals who oppose the political process. To answer the legitimate questions asked by the Russian Federation, the regime could initially not name names but simply be used as a means to exert pressure on both parties.
The reign of impunity in South Sudan cannot continue. Independent and impartial investigations must be conducted immediately. The perpetrators must be tried and convicted, regardless of their political affiliation. The African Union’s commission of inquiry must collect evidence on the crimes committed. The attacks, in particular those against United Nations bases, constitute war crimes. Given the exceptional gravity and scale of the crimes, and within the framework of a dialogue with IGAD and the African Union, we must also consider a referral to the International Criminal Court.
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