During its informal consultations on 21 August 2019, the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan was briefed by Ms. Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Ms. Patten noted that despite the adoption of clear provisions in the revitalized peace agreement calling for an end to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, such violence continued unabated in South Sudan and is widely used to humiliate both victims and their entire communities, with political and ethnic undertones, in a climate of near-total impunity. She recalled that 2018 had seen the highest number of recorded sexual violence incidents in recent years.
The Special Representative stated that her Office has continuously engaged with parties to the conflict, to call for the immediate cessation of the use of sexual violence. In this respect, she mentioned that the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) launched their Action Plan in March 2019 pursuant to the Joint Communiqué with her Office in 2014. This resulted in the formation of an SSPDF Implementation Oversight Committee and a nationwide roll-out of the Action Plan commencing with the training of SSPDF officers in over 20 locations on the prevention and response to sexual violence in conflict. She further informed the Committee that the Action Plan with the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) was finalized earlier this month and is pending endorsement. Moreover, she stated that UNMISS Senior Women Protection Adviser has engaged with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (RM) (SPLA-IO-(RM)) leadership to encourage accountability measures for those implicated in crimes, particularly in relation to the Western Equatoria operations conducted between April and August 2018, during which 43 cases of rape and gang rape were committed, and 505 women and 63 girls were abducted by members of the SPLA-IO RM. As a result of these engagements, the Chairperson of the SPLA-IO (RM), Dr. Riek Machar, issued a Command Order on 3 February 2019 to prohibit acts of sexual violence in conflict and issued another specific Command Order in July 2019 on the immediate release of the abducted women and girls. A joint verification committee has since been established to facilitate the release, which is due to commence this month. The Special Representative further informed the Committee about her Office’s engagement with the National Salvation Army (NAS), another non-State armed group implicated in the latest UNMISS report on Central Equatoria.
In their reactions, Committee members that took the floor thanked the Special Representative for her engagement, encouraged her to continue with her work and looked forward to receiving further information from her Office. Several members also expressed concern that, despite the decrease in political violence, sexual gender-based violence had risen and emphasized the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual violence in conflict.