Insecurity in South Sudan continues to hinder the government’s ability to safeguard the rights of its citizens, according to the annual human rights report for 2011 issued by the South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) earlier today.

The commission’s chairperson Lawrence Korbandy called a press conference in Juba to present the report, which also noted that the harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists undermined freedom of speech and expression last year.

The report estimated that more than 200,000 people were displaced by inter-communal conflict over a period of eight months in 2011. Nearly one-quarter of South Sudanese citizens who were uprooted by violence last year live in Jonglei State.

The report found that human rights conditions for women were significantly worse last year than for men. Women and girls continued to face discrimination in South Sudan, according to its findings, and domestic violence and early marriages were still widespread.

Other human rights challenges ranged from dire living conditions in prisons to limited access to basic services for refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons.

Focusing on the government’s achievements in 2011, Mr. Korbandy cited improved access to health care and education despite the country’s poor infrastructure facilities. “(The commission) has drafted a Girl Child Education Bill to ensure that girls remain in formal education,” he said.

The SSHRC chairperson urged the South Sudanese government to ratify all existing human rights treaties and conventions, especially those pertaining to women.

“The transitional constitution provides a legal framework for promotion and protection of human rights, but that is not enough,” said Mr. Korbandy. “Government should put its effort to ratify the international laws pertaining to women’s rights as well.”

The chairperson said that the SSHRC had developed a strategic plan for the period of 2012-2015, but he stressed the commission’s need for financial support from the government and the international community to achieve its objectives.

“We don’t have enough funds to expand our office in the states and execute new programmes,” he added.