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Briefing on UNMISS (South Sudan)

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

 

Thank you, Mr President, for convening this important briefing in the open chamber. And thank you High Commissioner Pillay and Special Adviser Dieng for your forthright – very disturbing – briefings. Your visit was an essential one. And the Council must ensure that your immediate report back to us is instrumental.

All of us have been appalled by the terrible events in Bentiu and Bor, where just weeks ago hundreds of men, women and children were targeted in ethnic killings while seeking refuge in a hospital, a mosque, a church and a UN base. All places which must be inviolate as they are protected under international law.

The use of radio broadcasts to incite ethnic killings and sexual violence against women and girls is chilling and frighteningly resonant of mass atrocities elsewhere. The image of slain child soldiers – their lifeless bodies still clutching AK-47s as they lay dead in the streets – is harrowing.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Bishop – like so many other world leaders – has strongly condemned this violence, the scale and intensity of which represents a grim new chapter of a brutal conflict that has already claimed the lives of many thousands of civilians and displaced over a million more. Until this cycle is broken, more atrocities will occur; and many more lives will be lost.

Our message to all parties to this conflict is simple. There can be no military solution. President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar must uphold their responsibility to protect civilians, regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. They must immediately commit themselves and their forces to a ceasefire and engage sincerely in the peace process led by IGAD. We commend IGAD and Ethiopia for their leadership and for the invaluable role they continue to play as partners for peace and stability in the region.

We welcome the imminent release of the UNMISS report into human rights violations. No party to this conflict should be under the illusion that there will be anything less than full accountability for the crimes against humanity and war crimes we expect it will detail. In accordance with the principle of command responsibility, leaders will be held to account for their subordinates’ actions.

Impunity cannot persist. Nor can blanket amnesties be entertained. The legacy of a lack of accountability is among the drivers perpetuating this conflict.

We welcome the AU Commission of Inquiry and express our continued support to President Obasanjo and his team. It will remain open for the Council to consider referring the situation in South Sudan to the International Criminal Court once we have had the opportunity to consider the Commission’s recommendations.

As a Council, our obligation now is to help pull back this country from the brink, confronted as we are by grave and persistent human rights violations, extreme protection challenges, and a worsening humanitarian crisis. This situation clearly invokes the principle of Responsibility to Protect and we have a duty to act.

We commend UNMISS’ swift action to establish protection sites in the early stages of this conflict, saving countless lives. This is why the UN exists. The UN’s and SRSG Johnson’s commitment to the protection of civilians is a statement of their concern and determination to help the South Sudanese people. The Government of South Sudan must now state unequivocally its support for UNMISS, and extend its serious, full cooperation to it.

We must move urgently to recast the UNMISS mandate to give the mission clearer, more focused priorities with the protection of civilians at its core. This new mandate should reaffirm UNMISS’s neutrality and impartiality, and freeze most state-building tasks until the fighting stops and a pathway to genuine peace is established.

We must work with the “peacekeeping partnership” – the Council, the UN Secretariat and troop and police-contributing countries – to deploy the requisite peacekeepers faster – much faster. And we must equip them with the mandate, tools and mobility they need to protect civilians adequately. The crucial next step is to expand the security footprint beyond the IDP camps to protect more civilians at grave risk. And we support the proposed deployment of an IGAD protection force, to allow IGAD’s monitors to perform their work.

With the spectre of famine looming, we must spare no effort to facilitate humanitarian access so that life-saving assistance can reach those people in most need. Any action to deny, delay or otherwise obstruct such access is unacceptable. Australia has provided over $10 million in emergency aid since the crisis began. We encourage member states to give generously to the South Sudan humanitarian appeals.

As the fighting in oil-rich Upper Nile and Unity States demonstrates, competition over natural resources and its revenues is another important driver of this conflict. The proliferation and ready availability of small arms, light weapons and ammunition is further fuelling the fighting.

The Council has instruments in addition to peacekeeping that it can apply to mitigate the intensity of this conflict and bring a measure of protection to the people of South Sudan. We believe it is time for the Council to consider applying an arms embargo.

Australia also supports the application of financial and travel sanctions against instigators of violence and perpetrators of human rights abuses in South Sudan. Those who stand in the way of peace must pay a price for their actions. Targeted sanctions are a lever to curb the protagonists’ behaviour and bring them back to dialogue.

To conclude, Mr President,

While South Sudan’s leaders are engaged in their own bitter and bloody power struggle in the pursuit of their own narrow self-interest, the suffering of the South Sudanese people grows more and more acute. This is an unforgivable betrayal of the people of the world’s youngest nation. And the Council must heed the crystal-clear call to action we have heard today and accelerate our response.

Thank you, Mr President.

 

(As delivered)

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