Luate Charles Wani, Human Rights Officer for the South Sudanese Human Rights Commission, attended the November 2011 edition of the Global Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention and has since become a global leader in the field.
What has been your major work in genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
I have been involved in various activities on many different occasions in the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention. I conduct monitoring and documentation processes on a regular basis of emergency situations of human rights abuses in South Sudan. I also review and assess human rights violations in all the ten states of South Sudan with the aim of addressing abuses and improving procedures implemented to adjudicate gross violations across the states, which may lead to the collective result of genocide if not addressed at an early stage. Additionally, I have contributed and continue to contribute to raising awareness and spreading education on peace and reconciliation processes through radio talk shows, plus conducting training workshops in all the ten states on gender-based issues and human rights. This training creates avenues for several forms of sensitization, which can change the behavior of individuals regarding gender-based violence, thus contributing to the promotion of human rights and genocide prevention.
Furthermore, as part of my duties and responsibilities in the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, I’m involved in executing the mandate and functions of the commission by visiting jails, prisons, places of detention and other related facilities with a view to assessing and inspecting the conditions of the inmates, and thereafter, to make recommendations to the relevant authority for redress procedures. I also create and sustain within our society an awareness of the provisions of the constitution as the fundamental law of the people of South Sudan. Moreover, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission is an independent body with the power to investigate complaints of human rights abuses. When a violation is confirmed, the Commission can make appropriate recommendations or issue orders to the authorities in the interest of the victim(s) or in the public interest more generally. The Commission can also go to the judiciary to seek enforcement of the recommendation or orders issued.
Therefore, through the powers of the Commission, I have been involved in several investigations of alleged human rights violations during monitoring exercises in the field and at the head office in Juba.
Why are you so dedicated to the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
First and foremost, human rights work and genocide prevention go hand-in-hand.
Secondly, the institutionalization of human rights and genocide prevention policy is a new phenomenon in our young nation, and based on this, I fell in love with these new concepts. This has enabled me to not only to develop a unique career in this field, but also to be a symbol or icon of peace and human rights promotion nationally, regionally and internationally.
Thirdly, this particular field can be of great practical benefit to me simply because it will expose me to variety of skills and knowledge, which of course, Iâ€™m curious to learn about! In turn, this will eventually result into significant improvements in the realization of day-to-day human rights promotion, respect and protection, and thus genocide prevention by many individuals in our country and beyond its borders.
Fourthly, being a Human Rights Officer working for a national human rights institution that is tasked with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights in the whole of South Sudan, I feel that it is vital to develop and build my skills in the field of genocide prevention. This cannot happen without dedication.
What actions and policies do you feel are most effective in the long-term prevention of atrocity?
The actions and policies that I consider critical for effective prevention of atrocities are many. They include, but should not be limited to, the following:
- Lobbying, advocating for, and promoting government ratification of regional and international human rights treaties/conventions;
- Reporting to the parliament periodically and when necessary on the situation of human rights in the country to enable parliamentarians to push prevention policy where necessary; and
- To avoid future atrocity, monitoring and reporting on emergency situations that impede the protection of human rights in the country.
Furthermore, there is also need to review laws, bills, and general legislations before parliament and advocate for their compliance with human rights standards. It is also important to carry out continuous public education programs on human rights to enhance respect for human rights and the constitution as the fundamental law for all citizens. More so, there is need to formulate, implement and oversee programs intended to inoculate the citizens and raise awareness of their civic responsibilities and foster an understanding of their rights and obligations as citizens. Finally, it is important to develop and provide to the public and institutions information, education, and communication materials (IEC) on human rights issues. This will promote the provision of the legal framework, hence long-term prevention of atrocity.
For a government official who may be just entering the field, what advice do you have to give towards impactful and effective work in genocide prevention?
The government official or staff should be trained on issues related to genocide prevention in order for him/her to understand what tools can be used and to confidently apply them. The government official should also be empowered in terms of technical assistance as a decision-making person in his/her area of operation. Furthermore, a clear identification of the duties and responsibilities of the official should be made to avoid misrepresentation of data when executing his/her duties in genocide prevention. There is need for job analysis to determine the official job description and specification.