Turning the Page in Juba
By admin June 17, 2016

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We were all aware when South Sudan descended into a civil war lasting over two-years. Now in an attempt to heel South Sudan’s wounds, President Salva Kiir and the vice president Riek Machar’s have agreed the only route is through an “organized peace and reconciliation process with international backing”.  In a recent New York Times article titled “South Sudan Needs Truth, Not Trials the need for the country to the page is paramount before a country begins on the path towards development.

Like Northern Ireland and South Africa, the wound can only be healed if its people – “from the poorest farmer to the most powerful politician” – are given the chance to reflect on everything that has happened since war erupted in December 2013. They claim that the purpose is not to seek forgiveness, but to sustain lasting peace. The consequence would find some guilty, but would be exempt from facing justice in the court, and the current president and the vice president look at previous successful examples of reconciliation that guarantees internal stability. For instance, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY, is a body of the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars, which aimed to accomplish the shift from impunity to accountability, establishment of facts, the accomplishments in international law, and the strengthening the Rule of Law.

The ethical issues and controversies that surround the use of plea bargaining in international criminal tribunals have long been existed. Existing approaches to this subject have a tendency to be overly abstract, resulting in often ideologically deterministic justifications or critiques of plea bargaining in an international context. These approaches also fail to take into account any human dimension that may be involved in these negotiations. The world’s youngest country and its leaders then ask the international community, the US and Britain in particular, to reconsider one element of the peace agreement to which they are co-signatories: support for a planned international tribunal, the hybrid court for South Sudan. Otherwise, South Sudan will tear itself apart again as fighters instead of countrymen.

This argument is viewed as a blackmail by Dr Remember Miamingi, a South Sudanese national and human rights lawyer and the director at the Pan-African Centre for Family Studies in Pretoria. The argument that the Hybrid Court should be scrapped in order for the country to move on and rebuild and the Truth and Reconciliation process would provide healing is an amnesty for the killers, and a denial of justice for the victims in the name of the country’s stability. It is not true that the quest of accountability through trial is unavoidably destabilizing.  Miamingi suggests that Sierra Leone and Rwanda provides examples where trials did not lead to a return to war. In Sierra Leone a hybrid court tried individuals bearing the greatest responsibility for international crimes. In Rwanda, the Rwandan government conducted mass trials using traditional mechanisms. These two countries are still stable today.

We should bear in mind that Miamingi is a South Sudanese and a human rights practitioner. He is affiliated with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. What is truly imminent is not the fear of justice, but perpetual impunity and the rewarding of war crimes with power and wealth.

For more information:

Saving South Sudan

South Sudan needs truth and trials

Issues and Controversies Surrounding the Use of Plea Bargaining in International Criminal Tribunals

Key witness in South Sudan’s treason trial pulls out

South Sudan rival leaders in difference over avoiding trials


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