South Sudanese leaders said plans for an African court to try people for atrocities committed in the nation’s civil war should be scrapped, a suggestion Human Rights Watch called an attempt to escape justice.
President Salva Kiir and his deputy, former rebel leader Riek Machar, said in a New York Times column on Tuesday that the court, stipulated by an August peace agreement, would threaten that fragile pact. A truth and reconciliation commission would be sufficient, they wrote.
With their objection, Kiir and Machar “have put their own interests above those of their people,” Elise Keppler, international justice associate director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Their proposal to scrap trials is a self-serving attempt to evade justice at the expense of victims of atrocities, which can only be expected to fuel further abuses.”
Machar and his rebel forces returned to Juba, the capital, in April to form a national unity government that’s supposed to restructure the state before elections within 30 months. Fighting that began in December 2013 in the oil-producing country has left tens of thousands of people dead. The August accord committed the leaders to the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan that would be accountable to the African Union.