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On 9th November, Grace Andrau — representative of NoSSCOU (Network of South Sudanese Civil Organizations in Uganda) — welcomed the participants to the training and workshop on Chapter V of the Revitalized Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), which was signed by the government of South Sudan and major oppositions.
To bring all participants to a common understanding of the meaning of Chapter V of the R-ARCSS, human right lawyer Biel Boutros Biel gave an overview of the concept of Transitional Justice (TJ) that aims to redress legacies of human rights abuses through judicial and non-judicial measures. Transitional Justice forms Chapter V, the heart of the Peace Agreement. In South Sudan, there will be established three institutions to achieve truth, accountability, reconciliation and healing: the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) and the Compensation and Reparation Authority (CRA).
Biel said: “It is important that criminal prosecution is pursued in South Sudan alongside other TJ mechanism but in a manner that does not jeopardize peace.” He indicated some challenges for the three institutions such as corruption or the lack of political willingness. Biel also mentioned the importance of TJ to end impunity in South Sudan and to bring perpetrators, victims and survivors together to achieve peace.
In the panel discussion, Stella Bagho from the South Sudanese Women for Peace and Development (SSWPD), Keluel Agok, General Secretary South Sudan Civil Society Alliance and Daniel Juol Nhomngek from the Joth Mayardit Community Centre for Peace and Justice were discussing the importance of Chapter V for South Sudan. Bagho mentioned the huge suffering of the women in the conflict and that women should be put in the heart of Chapter V. Other claims were that for the reconciliation process, truth-telling and apologies for the committed crimes are necessary. It is important to address injustice but also to look forward. Participants mentioned the relevance of the youth in the peace process and the challenges to find evidence for the crimes committed as they were destroyed.
To deepen the understanding of the three institutions of Chapter V, the participants elaborated in three groups on ideas and challenges for the HCSS, CTRH and CRA. The group of the HCSS discussed if justice and peace can be implemented concurrently and what can be the challenges for the Hybrid Court. It was argued that there need to be peace firstly so that people are safe. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to implement criminal justice. Another key topic was the education of people on the ground about the peace process to solve the conflict on different levels. The group saw the challenges in the political willingness to bring perpetrators to court and what can be done to prevent this.
The group working on the CTRH elaborated on how can be ensured that members of the commission are not perpetrators. To guarantee this, trusted groups like judges or faith groups need to take the lead. Another important point that was mentioned was the need of responsibility and personal acceptance on behalf of all people for a successful process of reconciliation.
The group engaging on the CRA worked on how can be ensured that only real victims and not perpetrators get compensations and reparations. The group concluded that it is important to identify the victims through transparent mechanism and criteria and to ensure safety for victims so that they and the community as a whole take part in the reparation process. Also the refugees and the IDPs need to engage.
The discussions after the presentations and also during the day showed that there is no clear opinion among the participants if the focus should be on justice or on reconciliation to achieve peace. In conclusion, Transitional mechanism as reconciliation and truth-telling are vital for the peace process and all communities need to be part of the peace process but the lack of political willingness can undermine the implementation of Chapter V.
written by Claudia Hell