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  • Mariana Goetz

Training on survivor-centred approaches helps prepare national consultations on TJ in South Sudan

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Juba, 7-8 February 2022

Quiet progress towards transitional justice?

South Sudan seems to be making some quiet progress towards transitional justice. While there has been a push-back on the establishment of a Hybrid Court provided for in the 2018 Peace Agreement, there is some movement on a Truth Commission mandated to establish an historic record of human rights abuses, breaches of the rule of law and abuse of power from 2005 to 2018. Public acknowledgment of the scale and scope of violations suffered would be an important first step towards justice and reparations in a context where the occurence of conflict-related sexual violence, for instance, is regularly denied.

The Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) is one of three transitional justice mechanisms described in the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS), along with the Hybrid Court and a Compensation and Reparations Authority (CRA). The CTRH is to have seven Commissioners: four South Sudanese and three from other African nations appointed in consultation with the AU Commission and UN Secretary General.

Nearly half of South Sudan's is population is displaced, living either in displacement camps within the country, or in neighbouring countries as refugees. As vast numbers of the civilian population are victims, we have focused on supporting survivor-sensitive transitional justice mechanisms - in particular sensitive to the needs of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. These transitional justice institutions will need to engage survivors in an environment of intense physical insecurity due to ongoing intercommunal divisions, extreme social stigma, blaming and trauma. Support to members of the Technical Committee and future CTRH

On 7-8 February 2022, Rights for Peace, with support from the Global Survivors Fund, and in partnership with the Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, held a Consultative Training Workshop for members of the government appointed Technical Committee mandated to conduct nation-wide consultations to inform the drafting of legislation that will establish the CTRH. Civil society actors including CSO women leaders working on transitional justice issues were also able to attend.

The Technical Committee is composed of thirty-six members, drawn from civil society, faith based and transitional institutions, academic institutions, political actors and senior officials from the Ministry of Justice and relevant government Ministries.

The Workshop focused on ensuring survivor-centred approaches to the consultations, and a review of possible consultation questions. It aimed to support increased skills addressing:

  • Who is a victim?

  • What the difference between a survivor and a victim?

  • What is the mandate of the CTRH?

  • How might victims engage with the future CTRH?

  • What issues will be relevant to their engagement in the CTRH?

  • What are relevant consultation questions?

  • What survivor-centered guidelines might be appropriate for consultations?

  • What are victims' rights?

  • What are reparations and what is the CTRH's role in recommending reparations?

  • What are common signs of trauma?

  • What methodologies should be used in the consultations? Interviews, focus groups and other techniques of gathering data.

Outcomes and Recommendations

Several outcome documents were produced including Draft Guildelines on Survivor-Centered Approaches to transitional justice. Recommendations & Expectations from the consultations include:

  • Ensuring political will to back the consultations and future CTRH "to give people the confidence that the politicians are behind them";

  • Ensuring effective participation from all sectors of society, including marginalised or vulnerable groups, people with disabilities, survivors, and in particular survivors of sexual violence;

Public Consultations on the draft law establishing the CTRH

Rights for Peace will continue to support efforts towards establishing a survivor and gender sensitive CTRH. Engaging the public and affected populations on key issues that will be important to them is a key step in starting to build trust in the future institution and bridge gaping divides between government and affected populations. Important issues, views and concerns about how the Commission will operate need to be raised and addressed to ensure a process that is inclusive and enables the participation of women, youth, children and other marginalised groups.

In spite of shrinking space for civil society to act freely, it is necessary to strengthen the capacities, visibility and agency of survivors in South Sudan and to sensitise them about the transitional justice process, whilst ensuring their protection at all times. According to the 2018 Peace Agreement, the CTRH should also provide opportunities to progress the other transitional justice mechanisms, such as the Compensation and Reparation Authority (CRA). This is therefore an important moment to ensure that the CTRH complements the full exercise of transitional justice in South Sudan, and that this approach is reflected in the legislation which creates it.

This project is funded by the Global Survivors Fund and has two aspects:

  • Support to the Technical Committee including trainings and development of public awareness materials such as a pictoral flip book guide for sensitisation about the CTRH in group settings, as well as a booklet "What is the CTRH?", with translation and printing.

  • Support to survivor networks through the ground work of CIGPJ, in particular to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, who are amonst the most affected. Support includes sensitisation and capacity strengthening to enable meaningful and effective participation, both at grassroot and national level. Follow up 'Survivors Speak' events voicing key issues affecting victims' rights in the transitional justice process are also planned.

Challenges to the current process are diverse, not least considering that South Sudan is still recovering from devastating flooding in many areas, and civic space has noticeably shrunk in the last 6 months. Perhaps the most significant challenge is funding - which does not always reach where it is needed most.

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