South Sudan's decision to expel a United Nations human rights officer constitutes a "breach of the legal obligations" of the Government, the world body's senior official in the country stressed on Sunday.
"The order is in breach of the legal obligations of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan under the Charter of the United Nations," said the Secretary-General's Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson.
"I have therefore been in discussions with the highest levels of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to seek clarification on the reasons behind the order and to protest against this decision," she added in a statement.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had recently received official communication from the Government ordering one of its human rights officers to leave the country within 48 hours. The officer has since been redeployed to the UN Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, pending a decision on her future status.
On Oct 25, the Mission wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international cooperation, and Sunday, Johnson met with President Salva Kiir to discuss the matter. However, she stated that in spite of these efforts, the order has not been withdrawn.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July last year, six years after the signing of the peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and the south. During the same month, the Security Council established UNMISS with the purpose of consolidating peace and security and to help establish conditions for development.
Human rights and discrimination, Johnson noted, were at the core of the civil war struggle, and respect for human rights is now a cornerstone of the country's transitional constitution.
"Human rights monitoring, investigation and reporting, and building capacity, is a core element of the mandate of UNMISS which must be protected. It is therefore important to allow the Mission's human rights officers to carry out their mandate," the Special Representative said.
"Should there be any serious complaints or evidence related to individual staff members' conduct, we trust that the Government will bring this to our attention and follow due process in accordance with international obligations," she added.