The United Nations Security Council’s failure to approve a December 23, 2016, resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and placed a travel ban and asset freeze on three senior South Sudanese leaders was deeply disappointing, seven nongovernmental groups said today. The measure failed to gain the nine votes needed to pass, with seven in favor and eight abstentions.
“South Sudanese civilians had a reasonable expectation that the Security Council would make good on its long-standing threat to impose an arms embargo and extend sanctions to some of the senior leaders who have been responsible for grave human rights abuses” said John Prendergast, founding director at the Enough Project. “I can only imagine their frustration with today’s vote.”
Amnesty International, Control Arms, Enough Project, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Humanity United, Human Rights Watch, and PAX issued the statement jointly.
African Union and UN investigators have documented war crimes, including killings and rape of civilians, and forced recruitment of children by the warring parties in South Sudan since the conflict began on December 15, 2013. In the last few months there has been an increase in incitement to violence, hate speech by senior leaders, and targeting of civilians, sometimes based on ethnicity, in parts of the country that were previously untouched by the civil war.
“The Security Council had an opportunity to show that it stands with the civilian victims of this conflict,” said Akshaya Kumar, deputy United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, this failure gives the warring parties in South Sudan a green light to buy more weapons and materiel that will end up being used against civilians.”
The coalition is especially concerned that the Security Council was unable to come together and take action recommended by the UN’s senior leadership, including the secretary-general and his adviser on genocide prevention. “Once again, we are seeing civilians in dire need of protection being abandoned by the Security Council,” said Dr. Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “We hope this effort can be revived in January when we have a new Security Council, with five new members.”