Russia and Angola moved Tuesday to delay the imposition of targeted United Nations sanctions on leading South Sudan government and rebel officials obstructing peace in South Sudan.
This came as three human rights groups — Enough Project, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — called on the U.N. Security Council to impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for crimes and human rights violations in South Sudan.
Lindsey Hutchison, a South Sudan policy analyst at Enough Project, said her organization is disappointed by the Russian and Angolan action. She said blocking targeted sanctions undermines the Security Council’s pledge to impose serious consequences on those standing in the way of peace in South Sudan.
“The impunity will only continue in South Sudan as it has for the last 21-plus months of this conflict without serious consequences for these high-level officials who are responsible for cease-fire violations and other human rights abuses,” she said.
In a September 15 letter to the U.N. Security Council, the three human rights groups said the South Sudan conflict has been characterized by war crimes and other acts that may also amount to crimes against humanity.
The groups called for the imposition of a “well-monitored arms embargo” to reduce the flow and entry of weapons and military equipment into South Sudan. The groups also called for the imposition of targeted sanctions.
Hutchison said the sanctions the groups are requesting should include a travel ban and assets freeze against those responsible and who have been designated by the Security Council.
“The sanctions that we are calling for are targeted sanctions against individuals, which would involve travel ban and assets freezes of those individuals. It’s not a blanket against the entire country or against South Sudanese people themselves,” Hutchison said.
In July this year the Security Council imposed sanctions on six generals – three from the South Sudan military and three from the rebel side.
Hutchison said the problem with the so-called July six is that they are “ground commanders” and have no assets outside of South Sudan to seize.
“The two individuals that the Security Council is considering sanctioning — Paul Malong and ex-general Johnson Olony — are both high-level officials with assets outside the country that could very easily be seized by several international institutions and governments, including their houses or their bank accounts so it will have a huge deterrence effect,” Hutchison said.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir said Tuesday he’s still fully committed to the peace process to end his country’s civil war, even as he said he still has reservations about the recent agreement.
South Sudan has also said repeatedly that sanctions are counter-productive to the peace process.
Concrete action urged
Hutchison said every peace-loving group hopes and prays that the South Sudan government and the rebels will be truly committed to implementing the latest peace deal. But she said both sides must back up their words with concrete action.
“Right now a cease-fire violation and other reports that the international community is getting, they not proving that they are actually committed. There can’t be empty words; there needs to be consequences; there needs to be a true commitment on the part of the South Sudanese government, the opposition on all sides to actually end the fighting,” Hutchison said.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Tuesday extended an invitation to South Sudan President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to come to New York this month to reinforce their shaky peace.
The rebels have said their leader will come, but it is not clear whether President Kiir will make the trip to the U.N.