UN, South Sudan strengthen justice system to take care of sexual violence: UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 (Xinhua) — The United Nations is working with the South Sudanese government to strengthen the latter’s justice system to deal with the rampant sexual violence in the country, the UN envoy for South Sudan said here Friday.

David Shearer, the special representative of the secretary-general for South Sudan, said sexual violence continues to cause immense harm to women and girls across South Sudan, “most recently in northern (state of) Unity where the concentration of forces from all sides has led to horrific incidents.”

At a Security Council meeting on South Sudan, Shearer said “this violence must end and the perpetrators be held to account.”

He said the United Nations and the South Sudanese government are working in cooperation to build the capacity of the justice system to deal with sexual violence.

Their efforts include operating a mobile court system, where prosecutors and judges are flown to hotspots to hear cases, and opening soon a UN-supported special court in the capital Juba with jurisdiction over crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.

The mobile court system has already led to several dozen perpetrators being tried and jailed, Shearer said.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, descended into conflict in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president.

After a failed deal in 2015, the government and the armed factions signed a revitalized peace agreement in September 2018. The ongoing peace process stipulates that a transitional government, with Machar being one of the vice presidents, should take office in May.

During the five years of conflict, sexual violence and impunity for offenders have been a long-running problem in South Sudan.

A UN report said in February that at least 134 women and girls were raped, including some as young as eight, between September and December 2018.