European Union External Action


Global Report on Human Rights 2020 - SOUTH SUDAN

Brussels & Juba, 29/06/2021 - 13:03, UNIQUE ID: 210629_29

The recently adopted 2020 EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World includes country sections like the one on South Sudan below. The full report is available at

  1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: While the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) on 22 February 2020 provided some hope for accountability for human rights violations and abuses, the implementation of the Peace Agreement has stalled for much of the year. The missed reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly has prevented key legislative reforms, including , on any of the accountability mechanisms. Corruption remains rampant, with South Sudan scoring at the bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2020.

Violence against civilians has continued, resulting in regular killing and injuring of civilians, cattle raiding and looting of property. These incidents of subnational violence, although historically rooted in South Sudan, have “taken on an increasingly militarized character.” While violations against children appear to be on an overall decline in 2020, children continue to  be victims of all six grave violations, with almost half of children recruited and used in combat roles. In February 2020 the parties to the Revitalized Agreement signed and endorsed a comprehensive action plan to end and prevent all grave violations against children, yet the delays surrounding the formation of the Government bodies and the outbreak of COVID-19 affected the implementation.

Sexual violence and other forms of violence against women and girls have also continued. The closure of schools since March 2020 as a COVID-19 measure has reportedly led to a high rate of early child marriages, teenage pregnancies and sexual violence. The full scale of sexual violence is believed to be underreported.

Capital punishment is legal, and in practice it extends to juveniles, despite this being unconstituional. Some prisoners of war and political detainees have been released. However the space for civil society, journalists and human rights defenders, remains heavily constrained, with recurrent arbitrary arrests and detentions. There is both censorship and self-censorship in the country’s media.

There have been this year some positive developments, especialy in the second half of 2020, when a number of convictions in military and civilian courts for gang rape and rape. In December 2020 South Sudan officially inaugurated the country’s first Gender Based Violence and Juvenile Court.

South Sudan has not had a national election since the year before independence. The year ended without  the completion of the long-due appointment of the unifiedgovernance bodies foreseen by the Peace Agreement . Moreover, delayingtactics by majority parties did not allow the start of the constitutional review process, one of the pre-requisite for free and fair elections at the end of the transition period.

In 2020, humanitarian needs have remained high, aggravated further by unprecedented heavy flooding.Attacks on aid workers have continued. Humanitarian access in some areas has been hindered by violence and COVID-19 movement restrictions. In December 2020, the international reports confirming that 60 percent of the country’s population face either a state of official food crisis or worsening food insecurity.

It is estimated that approximately 1.5  million people are internally displaced and 2.47 million have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. Close to 200,000 people are living in six UN 'Protection of Civilians' (POC) sites across the country. In September 2020, the UN announced the transition of two POC sites to camps for internally displaced under the protection of the South Sudanese authorities, raising fears of increased vulnerability.

  1. EU action – key focus areas: The key EU priority in 2020 was to support the implementation of the peace process, through financial and political support, and support COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response efforts. In July 2020, two EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flights provided over 89 tonnes of medical and humanitarian supplies in one of the largest EU air bridge operations since its launch. The EU has also provided support to Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), provided venues to promote freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly,to anti-misinformation platforms and to women’s empowerment. The EU co-led strong advocacy against persisting violence and its impediments to humanitarian aid, through both diplomatic and media channels.
  2. EU bilateral political engagement and its impact: The bilateral political engagement is constrained by South Sudan not being a signatory of the Cotounou agreementand by the delayed and partial implementation of the inclusive governance foreseen by the Peace Agreement. Nonetheless, the EU has advocated in all its exchanges with Government authorities for increased respect of human rights, including for an increased transparency of the public finances which links to the realisation of the fundamental economic and social rights of the population. Formal demarches were also implemented often jointly with MS, for example on the abolition of the death penalty. The EU is also in the forefront of raising HRD issues with the wider international community in Juba, including through following individual cases and thorugh facilitating exchanges between EU Ambassadors and HRDs.
  3. EU financial engagement and its impact: In 2020, EU support enabled the first ever registration of the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders’ Network and continued to support the capacity of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to protect themselves and to support HRDs at imminent risk of violence and/or with acute protection needsThe EU is also supporting access to information, freedom of expression and addressing hate speech. In 2020, the EU has stepped up its engagement on gender equality with a dedicated financial allocation for women’s empowerment.
  4. Multilateral context: The full implementation of Human Rights commitments remains a challenge. While the Government of South Sudan has acceded to or ratified most international instruments, accountability for perpetrators and justice remain largely absent and enforcement of domestic laws is hampered by resource contraints, institutional capacity and lack of durable peace. Cooperation with African Union bodies and various bodies of the UN Special Procedures has slowed down, also due to the COVID-19 response measures and restrictions.  The full report is available at :

Human Rights Division, United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Quarterly Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians January-March 2020.

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