The start of consultations on transitional justice that commenced on 5 May 2022 in South Sudan is welcomed by Rights for Peace, the Global Survivors Fund and partners. A Technical Committee, that includes civil society members, has started consulting citizens across South Sudan on the establishment of the Commission on Truth Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH). Consultations have started in all 10 States, and survivors have participated in Bor, Pibor and Yei.
Rights for Peace and the Global Survivors' Fund (GSF) have been working closely with civil society members of the Technical Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Justice to conduct public consultations in accordance with the revitalised Peace Agreement of 2018 (R-ARCSS). Chapter V of the Agreement sets out three transitional justice mechanisms: a Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, a Hybrid Court and Compensation and Reparations Authority.
Rights for Peace, with support from GSF, helped provide training and technical support to the Centre for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice (CIGPJ), supporting the work of the Technical Committee, particularly by developing and printing the civic education materials including a pictorial guide (being used above by CIGPJ Director Jackline Nasiwa) , a 30-page illustrated hand-book as well as the consultation questionnaire being used to gather citizens views.
Our project supporting civil society and the process is ensuring that a diverse group of citizens is being consulted - including survivors of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) who have suffered epidemic and devastating levels of violence.
Survivors are keen for a citizen and victim driven process around Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. In our Study on survivors' perceptions about reparations, it became apparent that survivors are instinctively aware that they have a rights, including a right to reparation. One survivor stated, “because I am a human being and not an animal, I have a right to reparation - the dignity that belongs to me needs to be restored”. The Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing is mandated to provide recommendations on reparations, according to the Peace Agreement. This needs to be translated into the law that will establish the Commission.
Reparation goes beyond simple compensation, and can be holistic, to address multi-faceted consequences of the harm suffered. One survivor described reparation as being “a kind of help that I get to help me get out of the victimhood and see more to life and get hope to see justice, that somebody actually cares about me and sees that harm was done to me.” Another survivor of conflict related sexual violence said “I am ready to speak openly without fear. Justice without reparation is not justice, we need a justice that provides to all of the people.”
The Study found that survivors indicated extreme unmet needs, including urgent medical, psychological, social, and economic needs directly resulting from the specific sexual violence experienced. The social impacts are particularly acute. A sea change of awareness in government and communities across South Sudan is needed to end a destructive culture of
blame and violence against women.
In this respect security is an issue. A key demand from civil society is for increased civic space and freedom of expression:
"so that people feel comfortable contributing their views to this process."
Opening up civic space needs to start now as part of the healing process. People feel uneasy talking publicly about transitional justice in the current climate. Civil society actors call on the government to continue to demonstrate leadership in progressing a holistic transitional justice process, which includes reparations and justice to survivors.
These consultations are a step in the right direction, but they are just the start. Top level commitment to the process needs to renewed at every stage to reassure citizens, broaden civic space and create and enabling environment for for truth, reconciliation and healing to start.
In spite of funding and logistical challenges getting the consultations off the ground, our project has been able to support the travel and logistical costs of some members of the Technical Committee in addition to the technical support and training. We look forward to inclusive and extensive survivor voices being reflected in the Report of the Technical Committee - genuinely shaping the CTRH and addressing their concerns, including inclusive and safe spaces for survivors' participation.
RfP and GSF remain committed to supporting this process for the benefit of the people of South Sudan.