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UN human rights chief comments on visit to South Sudan

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday remarked on her visit [press release] to South Sudan, praising the country's development and calling on the new nation to commit to a human rights infrastructure of laws, institutions and practices. Pillay met with top government officials, civil society organizations and other UN divisions working in the country, offering the continued support of her office and urging South Sudan's speedy ratification of all the main international human rights treaties. Pillay advocated that the treaties build on the principles laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and would set legal standards of human rights in South Sudan, to be reflected by the new country's national laws:

Once sound national laws that abide by international treaty standards have been adopted, the national and local authorities, security services, NGOs and other members of civil society, the judiciary and the media, have a clear legal framework to guide them. Rule of law, based on a good human rights system, is fundamental to a properly functioning democracy, and I have been encouraged by the acceptance of that fact by the country's leadership.
Specific areas of concern for Pillay include due process and state detention procedures, impunity among security forces that have lead to torture and beatings of civilians, discrimination and tyranny against women and minority groups, a moratorium on capital punishment and the importance of maintaining freedom of expression, particularly for a free press and for human rights defenders. Pillay stated that South Sudan's Constitutional Bill of Rights provides a good foundation, and that the South Sudanese with whom she met during her visit imparted to her their desire to to have human rights reflected in their daily lives.

The Republic of South Sudan was recognized as an independent country [JURIST report] in July 2011, making it the world's 193rd nation. In February 2011, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who campaigned against secession, issued a formal decree [JURIST report] accepting the result of the referendum. However, tensions between the newly independent country and Sudan remain high, and late last month al-Bashir declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] in the South Sudan border areas, imposing a trade embargo on South Sudan and granting authorities in the region wider latitude to arrest and detain than is normally afforded by Sudan's constitution. The UN has been closely monitoring the violence and providing humanitarian relief [UN News Centre report] to victims of attacks in South Sudan but has called on the government to take control of the situation. In November 2011, Pillay called for an investigation of an aerial bombing of a refugee camp in South Sudan [JURIST report] by an Antonov plane often used by northern Sudan. In June 2011, a UN official denounced continued human rights abuses [JURIST report] against civilians in the region. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] said that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage.

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