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Ambassadors: South Sudan Must Uphold Human Rights

FILE - South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar, left, looks across at President Salva Kiir as they sit to be photographed following the first meeting of a transitional coalition government, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, April 29, 2016.

The United States and Norwegian ambassadors to South Sudan are calling on the nation's leaders to end human rights violations and hold perpetrators accountable.

U.S. Ambassador Michael J. Adler and Norway Ambassador Linken Nymann Berryman made remarks in Juba over the weekend at an event marking Human Rights Day.

Adler said the respect of human rights is central to U.S. support for the people of South Sudan.

“Commitment to human rights is a foundational element in the U.S. relationship with South Sudan. It has been the driving force behind U.S. support for the people of this country from its very beginning, which dates back decades before South Sudan’s independence in 2011. This commitment remains as strong as ever today,” Adler said.

South Sudan’s leaders should not delay action, he said, adding that the "United States is gravely concerned by credible reports of continued human rights violations and the impunity enjoyed by those perpetrating such acts."

Berryman said Norway also is concerned about threats to human rights and the safety of activists in the country.

"Norway is a staunch supporter of human rights in South Sudan, " she said. "On Human Rights Day, we pay tribute to human rights defenders and civil society for their work to improve the lives of all South Sudanese. We are concerned by the many threats to human rights in South Sudan, including conflict-related sexual violence and restrictions on civic and political space."

A commissioner with the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, Beny Gideon Mabor, says the fight for human rights was an integral part of South Sudan's long struggle for independence.

"I think you can quite agree that these men and women in uniform and the people of South Sudan in their eternity took up arms to fight for human rights. It is human rights that encompasses or contains all basic sources of livelihood, rights to life, to development, to own property, to have participation in public life, to have access to good services," Beny said.

South Sudan’s Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Joseph Malek Arop says his ministry is committed to ensuring human rights are respected across the country.

“I would like to assure all people of South Sudan and noble community of human rights that the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs is much concerned about human right in the country and committed to do its work and task in accordance with its mandate as stipulated in constitution and revitalized peace agreement on resolution of conflict in Republic of South Sudan,” he said.

Some civil society activists in South Sudan say the government needs to do more to end human rights violations.

“We members of the civil society and the international commission calls upon the leaders of South Sudan to act in urgency and to end the human rights violations and to uphold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. The commitment to human rights fundamental freedom enshrines in the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan; it is our duty to ensure that the citizens enjoy those rights,” said Opio Moses Kurusk, co-chairperson for the National Human Rights Forum.

This year's Human Rights Day was marked under the theme "Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All."