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South Sudan’s government and the African Union should urgently meet to clarify plans to set up a proposed hybrid court for wartime atrocities, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to both the government and the AU that was released today.

The Hybrid Court for South Sudan would bring together judges and prosecutors from South Sudan and across Africa as the country’s domestic court system is not prepared to handle such complex cases.

The setting up of the hybrid court is part of the terms of the peace deal President Salva Kiir and opposition groups signed following intense pressure from the international community.

 “South Sudan’s parties have committed to justice for the victims of war crimes and asked the AU to take the lead on creating a hybrid court,” said Carine Kaneza Nantulya, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“But there is no communication between the key players and the process is stalled. The AU and South Sudanese representatives should urgently convene a meeting to develop a plan to establish the court,” she added.

The international rights group said there was a lack of shared understandings between the government and the AU on establishing the Hybrid Court and the respective responsibilities to make the court operational.

Human Rights Watch further said AU representatives should organize a meeting with South Sudanese officials on the Hybrid Court in the margins of the AU Peace and Security Council meeting about South Sudan on October 23 and 24 in Addis Ababa.

It pointed out that such a meeting would reinforce a commitment to justice and support for victims of atrocities committed during the conflict.

“An independent court that brings those responsible for the worst crimes to justice is crucial for creating a durable peace,” Nantulya said. “A meeting with South Sudanese stakeholders and AU representatives would provide a much-needed forum to build a shared understanding and commitment for the hybrid court.”

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