Human Rights Watch warned South Sudanese authorities not to violate international law by granting an amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity, otherwise, they risked undermining efforts to achieve a lasting peace.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a final power-sharing deal to end the conflict ongoing since 2013.
On Wednesday, Kiir offered an amnesty to all armed groups involved in the five-year civil war as part of the agreement.
“Amnesty for atrocities not only conflicts with South Sudan’s international obligations but experience shows it is no way to build a lasting peace.
“While South Sudan’s leaders may aim to provide assurances to opponents, they should make clear that the amnesty does not cover grave crimes by all parties since the conflict began,” Elise Keppler, the associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said, as quoted in a statement.
In the statement, the watchdog warned that the United Nations will never endorse the peace deal stipulating amnesties for crimes considered serious under international law.
The watchdog cautions that the previous “history of providing de facto blanket amnesty to opponents as part of peace deals” only led to escalation of social and ethnic divisions and fueled further violence.
“The lack of accountability for serious crimes is a cause of South Sudan’s crisis, not a solution,” Keppler stressed.
The watchdog also expressed concerns over South Sudan’s lack of “genuine progress” toward setting up a hybrid court to prosecute international crimes, a requirement stipulated in the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan.
The watchdog calls on the African Union’s commission to go ahead with establishing such a court on its own.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan following a referendum in 2011, in which majority of the voters supported the move.
In 2013, a civil war erupted in the country, as Kiir of the Dinka tribe accused Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of planning a coup.