Central African Republic: Minister Faces Atrocity Charges

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic has arrested and brought charges against a government minister for war crimes and crimes against humanity in an important step for justice, Human Rights Watch said today. A detention hearing for the minister, a former armed group leader, Hassan Bouba Ali, known as Hassan Bouba, will be held on November 26, 2021, based on a court order seen by Human Rights Watch.

Bouba was a leader of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique, UPC), a rebel group that emerged out of the fractured Seleka coalition. In 2017 he was named a special councilor to the president, then named the minister of livestock and animal health in December 2020.

“The UPC is responsible for many serious crimes in the Central African Republic since 2014,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bouba’s arrest sends a strong message that even the most powerful can find themselves subject to the reach of the law and gives hope to the many victims of UPC crimes that they may one day see justice.”

The UPC started committing serious abuses in the Ouaka province in 2014, before it split from the rebel Seleka faction. From 2014 to 2017, Human Rights Watch documented at least 246 civilians killed, dozens of cases of rape and sexual slavery, and 2,046 homes burned by the UPC in the Ouaka province. In 2017 the UPC started to expand into the Basse-Kotto and Mbomou provinces.

In 2017 Human Rights Watch documented that at least 188 civilians had been killed in fighting between the UPC and anti-balaka fighters in the Basse-Kotto province, the majority killed by the UPC. The cases Human Rights Watch documented involving the UPC are most likely only a fraction of the total.

Bouba was expelled from the rebel group in January, after a surge in violence in the country when a new rebellion, of which the UPC was a member, began in December 2020. He was arrested at his office on November 19.

The Special Criminal Court issued a news release on November 22, saying that Bouba had been arrested, but it does not include any details on the crimes against humanity and war crimes that are charged. Bouba is being held at a military camp outside of Bangui.

The SCC is a novel court established to help limit widespread impunity for serious crimes in the Central African Republic. The court is staffed by both international and national judges and prosecutors, and benefits from international assistance. It has the authority to try grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflicts since 2003. Internationally accepted standards for fair trials, including the presumption of innocence and the requirement that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, are enshrined in the court’s rules of procedure and evidence.

The law to establish the court was adopted in 2015, but the court did not officially begin operations until 2018. The SCC was established after national consultations in 2015, known as the Bangui Forum, had prioritized justice, and stated that “no amnesty” would be tolerated for those responsible for and acting as accomplices in international crimes.

Bouba’s charges come two months after another high-profile arrest by the SCC. Capt. Eugène Ngaïkosset – known within the country as “The Butcher of Paoua” – whose arrest was confirmed on September 4, is charged with crimes against humanity. Ngaïkosset led a presidential guard unit implicated in numerous crimes, including the killing of at least dozens of civilians and the burning of thousands of homes in the country’s northwest and northeast between 2005 and 2007.

Bouba is regarded as having moved up to the number two position in the UPC in October 2015 after his predecessor, Hamat Nejad, was killed in an ambush in Bangui. Human Rights Watch spoke and met with Bouba several times between 2015 and 2021, and shared research the organization had conducted on crimes that were committed by the UPC.

The UPC lobbied for a general amnesty during 18 months of peace talks negotiated by the African Union. The peace accord, finalized in Khartoum, Sudan, in February 2019, is vague on steps needed to ensure post-conflict justice and did not mention specific judicial processes, but it recognized the role impunity played in entrenching violence. While the accord did not mention amnesty, Bouba told Human Rights Watch in February 2019 that for the UPC, the peace deal means a general amnesty. “If the government arrests a member of an armed group, then there is no more accord,” he said.

On September 8 the SCC’s substitute prosecutor, Alain Tolmo, announced that the court intends to begin its first trials before the end of the year, and that the court has multiple cases under investigation. The court is based in Bangui, which will help Central Africans affected by the crimes to more easily follow and interact with efforts to ensure that suspects face criminal accountability, Human Rights Watch said. The SCC’s judicial efforts operate in tandem with International Criminal Court investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes committed in the country, along with some cases dealing with lesser conflict-related crimes before the country’s ordinary criminal courts.

The SCC faces funding challenges and needs further support to continue to advance its important work, Human Rights Watch said. Organizations, including Human Rights Watch, wrote to members of the US Congress on November 18 to urge renewal of the US government’s important $3 million 2021 contribution to the court.

“The Special Criminal Court is playing a vital role in helping to puncture pervasive impunity in the Central African Republic,” Mudge said. “When Bouba was promoted to minister many felt it could be yet another example of how it can pay to commit serious crimes in the Central African Republic. His arrest is a warning to other suspects in positions of power that the reign of impunity in the country may be running short.”

Guinea: Coup Further Complicates Massacre Justice

By Elise Keppler: Associate Director, International Justice Program

The trial of suspects in the massacre of more than 150 people and the rape of dozens of women in a Guinea stadium on September 28, 2009, should begin as soon as possible, six human rights groups said today. Twelve years later, victims and their families should not have to wait any longer for justice to finally be delivered.

As Guinea embarks on a political transition process after the September 5, 2021 coup, the opening of this trial would send a strong signal that the authorities are willing to put respect for human rights and the fight against impunity at the center of their priorities.

The groups are the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of September 28, 2009 (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), the Guinean Human and Citizen Rights Organization (OGDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

Although 12 years have gone by, the need for justice remains as strong as ever for the survivors of the massacre and victims’ families. Just one year ago, the six groups had denounced the delays and time wasted in organizing the trial. The wait has become unbearable for the survivors and victims’ families, the groups said, given that the investigation phase concluded in late 2017. The Guinean government has promised several times to begin the trial as soon as possible, and no later than June 2020. The organizations remain concerned by an evident lack of will to complete preparations for this trial in Guinea.

In recent months, the steering committee overseeing the preparations for the trial, made up of government officials and international partners, had resumed its work and adopted a road map. Construction had progressed at Conakry’s Court of Appeal, where the trial is to take place, and a training session for judges was planned by the French government. However, despite these efforts, no trial date has yet been set.

“Given the deteriorating health of the survivors, we, together with the Association of Victims, Relatives, and Friends of September 28, 2009, are calling for this year to be the last commemoration before justice is done,” said Aissatou Diallo, a survivor of the September 28 events. “It is urgent for the trial to be held and reparations awarded before all the victims die.”

Residents cheer on army soldiers after the uprising that led to the toppling of President Alpha Conde in Kaloum neighborhood of Conakry, Guinea September 6, 2021, REUTERS/Souleymane Camara NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The investigation by Guinean judges began in February 2010. More than 13 suspects were charged, 11 of whom were sent for trial. Among them is Moussa Dadis Camara, the former leader of the National Council for Democracy and Development junta that ruled Guinea in September 2009, who is living in exile in Burkina Faso. Some of the suspects who have been charged held influential positions until the recent coup, including Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who was in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.

The organizations are closely following Guinea’s period of political transition after the National Committee for Reconciliation and Development (Comité national du rassemblement et du développement, CNRD) took power on September 5, and reiterated their call for the respect of human rights and fundamental liberties of all Guineans. As the CNRD leader, Mamady Doumbouya, stated that “justice will be the compass guiding every Guinean citizen,” the fight against impunity should be at the heart of the authorities’ actions, the groups said.

“It is more than urgent for Guinea to put an end to the cycle of impunity that has deeply marked the country’s history for more than 60 years,” the groups said. “We remind the authorities that international law requires states to provide effective remedies to victims of human rights violations and that any lack of justice or the adoption of an amnesty for serious crimes is incompatible with these requirements.”

“It is also essential for the new authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders and activists who have suffered numerous violations of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for years,” the groups said. “The new authorities should make justice a prerequisite of their actions.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Guinea in October 2009. Designed as a court of last resort for the most serious crimes, the ICC steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute such cases. In its latest report, the ICC had expressed its disappointment that “the trial has not yet started and no timeline or action plan for the opening of the trial has been communicated by the Government of Guinea.” The ICC had indicated that “the Guinean authorities must demonstrate, in the coming months, their will and ability to combat impunity and to prevent renewed cycles of violence.”

Guinea’s partners, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the European Union, the ICC, and the United Nations should pay increased attention to the current situation in the country and strengthen their actions and support, on the one hand, for the September 28 trial to be organized as soon as possible, and on the other, for the new authorities in Guinea to respect human rights.

Uganda: First ICC Conviction of an LRA Leader

The conviction of Dominic Ongwen on February 4, 2021 is a major step for justice for widespread atrocities committed by the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The guilty verdict at the International Criminal Court (ICC) shows that rights abusers can find themselves held to account even if years have passed since their crimes.

Ongwen is the first LRA leader to be tried before the ICC, and the first to be convicted for LRA crimes anywhere in the world.   

The judges found that Ongwen was guilty of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes include attacks on the civilian population, murder, torture, persecution, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, sexual slavery, enslavement, rape, pillage, destruction of property, attacks on the civilian population, and recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 to participate in the hostilities. The judges did not find evidence of duress or mental illness or defect that would negate his culpability for the crimes.

“The LRA terrorized the people of northern Uganda and its neighboring countries for more than two decades,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “One LRA leader has at last been held to account at the ICC for the terrible abuses victims suffered. Would-be rights violators should take note that the law can catch up with them, even years later.”

Human Rights Watch issued a Question-and-Answer document and a feature article on the trial on January 27.

The LRA originated in 1987 in northern Uganda among communities in the Acholi region of the country, who suffered serious abuses at the hands of successive Ugandan governments. Their campaign initially had some popular backing, but support waned in the early 1990s as the LRA became increasingly violent against civilians.

The group, led by Joseph Kony, abducted and killed thousands of civilians and mutilated many others by cutting off their lips, ears, noses, hands, and feet.

The LRA’s brutality against children was particularly severe. Ongwen had been one such victim, as he was abducted into the LRA as a 10-year-old child in 1990. The ICC does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by anyone under 18, but Ongwen was tried for crimes he committed as an adult. His abduction as a young child and the brutality he may have experienced should be considered as mitigating factors at his sentencing, Human Rights Watch said.

The LRA abducted over 30,000 boys and girls and forced them to become soldiers, laborers, and sex slaves. They were forced to beat or trample to death other children who attempted to escape and were repeatedly told they would be killed if they tried to run away. At the height of LRA activity in the early 2000s, as many as 40,000 children, known as the “night commuters,” each night fled their homes in the countryside to sleep in the relative safety of towns to avoid abduction.

Ongwen is the only LRA leader among five charged by the ICC who is in custody. Kony is an outstanding fugitive and the other three are declared to be or presumed dead.

Over four thousand victims were “participants” in Ongwen’s trial, separate from the role of witnesses. Early decisions in the case highlighted shortcomings, however, when it came to giving victims a voice in the choice of which lawyers would represent them. The ICC also actively conducted outreach to the local population on the trial. This included bringing community members to observe the trial at the ICC and audio and video screenings in northern Uganda of portions of the trial.

The ICC’s decision to open cases against Ongwen and other LRA leaders in 2005 coincided with a resumption of peace talks between the rebel group and the Ugandan government, although the final peace agreement was never concluded as Kony did not show up to sign it. Military campaigns against the LRA eventually pushed the group across the border into southern Sudan –now South Sudan and, in 2005 and 2006, into the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA later crossed in and out of the Central African Republic.

Starting in 2010, the US government provided assistance and military advisers to support regional efforts to arrest Kony and other LRA leaders, but in 2017 the US ended the program.

In recent years the LRA has splintered into smaller groups operating across central Africa. Kony and a group of his fighters are believed to be based in the Kafia Kingi, a disputed area on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. The organization Invisible Children, which tracks the various LRA groups, has documented continued abductions and looting.

Governments committed to justice for victims of LRA atrocities need to revisit how to ensure Kony’s ultimate arrest and surrender, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations, African Union, and Economic Community of Central African States should support such efforts.

Following the verdict in the Ongwen case, the parties have 30 days to appeal. The ICC will also conduct hearings on sentencing and possible reparations for victims.

“Ongwen’s trial and conviction are major developments, but they should not obscure the need for Joseph Kony’s arrest and surrender,” Keppler said. “Countries should recommit themselves to seeing Joseph Kony face the ICC once and for all.”

Alleged chief financier of the Rwanda genocide arrested

Felicien Kabuga, a fugitive from justice for alleged responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda for more than 25 years arrested on Sunday in France.

“The arrest this morning in France of Félicien Kabuga, a wealthy businessman alleged to be a chief financier of the Rwanda genocide in 1994, is an important step towards justice for hundreds of thousands of genocide victims. It shows that even after twenty-six years, survivors can hope to see justice and suspects cannot expect to escape accountability.” – Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The 84-year-old was living under a false identityin a flat in Asnières-Sur-Seine, a Paris suburb, according to a press release from the public prosecutor and regional police.He was arrested on Saturday morning by French gendarmes, France’s Justice Ministry told Reuters.

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Started by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with shocking speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbors. 

Central African Republic: New Court Should Step Up Effort

Central Africans have waited so long to see justice for atrocities committed in the Central African Republic. Elise Keppler. Photo credit: HRW

The Central African Republic’s Special Criminal Court should intensify investigations and urgently recruit additional staff to deliver justice for war crimes and other serious offenses, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

By Elise Keppler
Associate Director, International Justice Program
Human Rights Watch

The new court is operating in a tremendously difficult setting after years of brutal conflict and insecurity in the country and needs greater government and international support.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a new court in the Central African Republic’s court system with the authority to try grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflicts since 2005.

“Central Africans have waited so long to see justice for the many killings, rapes, and other atrocities committed in the Central African Republic,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The Special Criminal Court holds promise but it’s had a slow start and needs to intensify investigations so trials can be initiated based on strong, compelling evidence.”

The Special Criminal Court is staffed by both international and national judges and prosecutors, and benefits from international assistance. The law to establish the court was adopted in 2015, but the court had to wait to start investigations until parliament adopted its rules of procedure and evidence in May 2018. The court held its first official session in October, and investigations are now pending in the prosecutor’s office and before the court’s investigative judges.

Following up on its May 2018 report on the Special Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch conducted research in the country’s capital, Bangui, from April 10 to 14, 2019 on the court’s progress and the challenges it faces.

Researchers interviewed 25 people, including court staff, United Nations staff, court consultants, human rights defenders, lawyers, and donors, and conducted two group interviews, one with human rights defenders and one with victims who are working with associations of victims of the crimes. Human Rights Watch sought to meet with government officials who work on the Special Criminal Court, but they were not available. Human Rights Watch also conducted interviews by phone and in person in New York in May, June, and July, in addition to reviewing relevant documents on the court’s activities.

“Justice must be at the forefront of a state that promotes good governance and democracy,” one human rights defender told Human Rights Watch in April. “Without justice, everything else will be wrecked.”

Human rights defenders and victims expressed strong concerns that vague provisions on justice in a peace accord signed in February could limit the government’s cooperation and support to the Special Criminal Court. They criticized the integration of people implicated in crimes into the government as a result of the recent peace deal. “We are seeing at this moment that our persecutors rule over us,” said a woman who leads a victims’ group. “They have entered the government.”

Human Rights Watch identified key elements needed to bring the court to full operations:

  1. Staffing: The level of court staff overseeing investigations is very limited. Existing staff should work to intensify investigative activity, but an additional panel of investigative judges and more prosecutors would help boost investigative capacity. Many of the staff needed for the court’s administration are also not in place and should be recruited without further delay.
  • Services: The court needs programs that have yet to exist in the country’s domestic system, including witness and victim protection and support, legal assistance for accused and victims, and outreach to affected communities. International experts are assisting in developing these areas, but further progress is needed and the experience gained should be leveraged to benefit the country’s national justice system over time. The government should also move ahead with providing secure accommodation for the Special Criminal Court’s domestic judges.
  • Coordination: The court remains highly dependent on the UN, which can limit the court’s capacity to make decisions and move its work forward. Efforts to regularly bring together court principals, UN partners, and donors to resolve outstanding questions more efficiently are underway and should be continued. A unified comprehensive budget that identifies all court costs and funding sources should also be prepared to better clarify the court’s needs.
  • Funding: As of July 10, the court had a funding gap of approximately US$1 million for 2019 operations, and no funds pledged for future years of operations, which are anticipated to annually cost approximately $12.4 million. Existing donors – the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the European Union – should increase their support. Other justice-supporting states that have yet to make a financial contribution, such as Canada, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden should consider stepping forward. UN oversight in the handling of funds remains advisable to insulate the court from actual or perceived concerns of financial impropriety. 

    “The Special Criminal Court emerged out of the strong, unequivocal desire on the part of Central Africans to break cycles of violence and impunity in the country,” Keppler said. “The government and international partners should protect their investment by being vigilant on the need for justice and giving the court essential resources to get its difficult job done.”

ICC: Jordan Was Required to Arrest Sudan’s Bashir

Appeals Chamber Rules States Must Arrest Wanted Leaders

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled on May 6, 2019 that Jordan failed to meet its international legal obligations to arrest then-President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan during a 2017 visit, Human Rights Watch said today. The ICC appeals chamber said that a sitting head of state does not have immunity from arrest for alleged grave crimes even when the leader is from a country that has not joined the ICC.

Al-Bashir, who was ousted as president on April 11, 2019, after four months of mass protests across Sudan, is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his alleged role in Sudan’s abusive counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur. The conflict in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 people and the displacement of several million others. The ruling involved his visit to Jordan, an ICC member, in March 2017 during an Arab League summit. 

“In a major ruling, the ICC found that heads of state properly sought on charges by the court are not immune from arrest,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The decision helps to assure that victims of mass atrocities have access to justice even when the highest-level officials are implicated in the crimes.” 

Sudan is not a member of the ICC, but in 2005 the United Nations Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC. The ICC prosecutor opened an investigation, and arrest warrants were issued in 2009 and 2010 against al-Bashir. At the time of the visit to Jordan, Jordan claimed it was not obligated to arrest al-Bashir given his status as a head of state of a non-ICC member. 

The five-judge appeals chamber unanimously upheld the pre-trial chamber’s ruling that Jordan was required to arrest al-Bashir when he was on Jordanian territory. The judges found that there is no immunity for heads of state before an international criminal court with authority. As a result, the judges concluded that no traditional principle of head-of-state immunity – which protects leaders on foreign soil from arrest – existed that was necessary to be waived. 

The chamber found that the Security Council resolution that referred Darfur to the ICC also required Sudan to cooperate fully with the court. The judges determined that this requirement meant that Sudan had to ensure that any immunities could not be a bar to the court’s functioning.

The chamber found that Jordan was also obligated to arrest al-Bashir as both Jordan and Sudan are parties to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and that members of the convention commit to prevent and punish genocide, one of the crimes with which al-Bashir is charged.

The chamber also ruled by a majority that the pre-trial chamber erred by sending Jordan’s failure to cooperate to the Security Council and the court’s assembly of members. The chamber found that this action was based on an incorrect conclusion that Jordan did not try to consult the court ahead of the visit.

Sudan has repeatedly obstructed the ICC’s investigation in Darfur, and there are four other individuals subject to outstanding ICC arrest warrants for alleged crimes in Darfur.

During his presidency, al-Bashir sought to maintain legitimacy – and flout the ICC – bytraveling abroad while subject to arrest warrants. Some countries, both members and non-members of the ICC, hosted him, while others made clear he was not welcome on their territories or rescheduled meetings to avoid his presence. Nongovernmental groups across Africa and globally have campaignedfor his surrender

On April 17, media reported that al-Bashir was being held in Kober prison in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. The transitional military council that assumed control in the country has said they would not hand al-Bashir over to face justice at the ICC, but could try him in Sudan or a forthcoming civilian government could do so. Human Rights Watch urged Sudan’s council to promptly turn al-Bashir over to the ICC.  

The ICC appeals chamber heard oral arguments from September 10-14, 2018. ICC prosecutors have been investigating al-Bashir since 2005, when the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC. There are two outstanding arrest warrants against al-Bashir stemming from the investigation for five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide. The ICC had previously found that ICC members, including South Africa, Chad, Uganda, Malawi, and Djibouti, breached their obligations as ICC members by failing to arrest al-Bashir when he visited their countries.

“Whether president or prisoner in Sudan, al-Bashir remains a fugitive from the ICC on charges of the gravest crimes committed in Darfur,” Keppler said. “Al-Bashir should be surrendered to the ICC to face the charges against him.”

South Sudan: No Amnesty for War Crimes

Don’t Ignore Victims’ Rights, International Obligations

(Nairobi) – South Sudanese leaders should not undermine their efforts to bring an end to the country’s devastating conflict with an amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.


President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, right, with the opposition leader, Riek Machar, left, as Mr. Machar was sworn in as vice president in Juba, capital of South Sudan, on April 26, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

The parties to the conflict signed a peace agreement on August 5, 2018, in Khartoum, agreeing to new power sharing arrangements and a timetable for further talks. On August 8, President Salva Kiir offered a “general amnesty” to heads of armed groups involved in the nation’s five-year civil war as part of the agreement to end the fighting.

“Amnesty for atrocities not only conflicts with South Sudan’s international obligations, but experience shows it is no way to build a lasting peace,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “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.”

International law requires prosecuting those responsible for serious crimes, such as crimes against humanity and war crimes, to ensure victims’ rights to truth, justice, and an effective remedy, along with combating impunity. South Sudan has also ratified treaties such as the Convention against Torture, which provide for prosecution of people allegedly responsible for serious crimes. Because the United Nations takes the position that amnesties cannot be granted for serious crimes under international law, it will not endorse peace agreements that provide for such amnesties. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has also rejected amnesty for serious crimes.

South Sudan’s leaders have a history of providing de facto blanket amnesty to opponents as part of peace deals, even prior to the country’s independence in 2011. The resulting lack of justice has contributed to the country’s deepening social and ethnic divisions, and fueled violence and abuses. Human Rights Watch has previously urged mediators and South Sudanese leaders to ensure that peace deals did not include any amnesty for serious crimes.

Since the new conflict started in December 2013, continued fighting and abuses by government and opposition forces, and their aligned militias have forced more than 2 million people to flee the country. The fighting has displaced more than another 2 million people within the country, with more than 200,000 still in UN sites established to protect civilians.

Despite provisions in the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) that envision a hybrid court to prosecute international crimes, South Sudan’s transitional government has not made genuine progress toward setting up the court. A memorandum of understanding on the court with the African Union (AU) has yet to be signed, and domestic legislation is yet to be adopted.

Under that agreement, the AU Commission has the authority to establish the hybrid court with or without the engagement of the South Sudanese government. The AU should proceed with creating the court on its own, unless the memorandum of understanding is immediately signed, Human Rights Watch said.

“The lack of accountability for serious crimes is a cause of South Sudan’s crisis, not a solution,” Keppler said. “Survivors of atrocities in South Sudan are strongly demanding justice. Their leaders should take urgent steps to make the hybrid court a reality as efforts to end the conflict continue.”