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JUBA - 24 Nov 2022

Amnesty urges AU action on hybrid court

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the African Union to take "long-awaited" steps toward creating a promised war crimes tribunal to try atrocities committed during South Sudan's bloody five-year conflict.

The establishment of an AU-led ‘hybrid court’ to prosecute those responsible for war-time atrocities was first agreed on in a 2015 peace deal, and again in 2018, but never implemented.

Government and opposition forces have been accused of heinous crimes, including gang rape, ethnic massacres and enlisting child soldiers during the civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead in the world’s youngest nation.

Amnesty and the South Sudanese Transitional Justice Working Group, a coalition of civil society and faith-based groups, says the AU must empower a court to investigate “the most serious crimes on the continent”.

“The formation of this court should not have been delayed for so long. The AU must take [this] long-awaited and bold action,” Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty’s director for East and Southern Africa, says in a statement.

“The failure to establish the hybrid court reflects a lack of political will in South Sudan’s government to hold those most responsible for serious crimes, which are likely to include senior political and military officials, to account.”

James Ninrew, the chair of the Transitional Justice Working Group, says that given the government’s unwillingness to pursue perpetrators, the AU should not place the court in South Sudan, but elsewhere in Africa, and must ensure its judicial independence.

Amnesty International and the TJWG recommend that the African Union Commission identify and recruit key staff who can start working remotely before the Court is fully established.