UN report on human rights violations in South Sudan released

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Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers ride on a boat on the Nile river on their way to Aleleo, Fashoda State, on October 16, 2016, after the SPLA accused the opposition forces of attacking their defensive positions in the area.

JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations human rights office (OCHR) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have released a report on human rights violations in South Sudan, urging the need for accountability and justice.

Hundreds of people were killed in South Sudan during an outbreak of violence last July, and more than 200 people were raped, during the fighting that broke out between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), a report said on Monday.

“The belligerents blatantly ignored international human rights law and humanitarian law. The fighting that erupted in July 2016 was a serious setback for peace in South Sudan and showed just how volatile the situation in the country is, with civilians living under the risk of mass atrocities,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The report his office co-authored found that SPLA and SPLM/A-IO showed “complete disregard for civilians”.

Al Hussein said they targeted women and children, and in particular, Nuers with tribal markings on their foreheads, after 12 July, and that six months later, “there remains widespread impunity, as violations continue unabated”.

“Information documented and verified by the Human Rights Division suggests that hundreds of people including civilians were killed and many more wounded during the fighting in various areas of Juba,” the report stated.

UNMISS documented 217 victims of rape, including gang-rape committed by SPLA, SPLM/A-IO and other armed groups during and after the fighting between July 8 and 25.

The ‘testimonies and witnesses’ accounts made by victims indicate that most cases of sexual violence were committed by SPLA soldiers, police officers and members of the National Security Services (NSS).

UNMISS and OHCHR urge the Transitional Government of National Unity to “break the cycle of violence and impunity,” including through the establishment and operationalisation of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan by the African Union.

The report also recommended that the State ensure that all victims of human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, have access to an effective remedy, just and fair reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation.

In August of last year, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, urged the South Sudanese Government to protect its citizens.

“The women and children of South Sudan do not deserve to be treated like this,” Bangura told UN Radio Miraya.

“Those who think they will get off ‘scot-free’ must be joking because we will go after them. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they are. We will go after them and hold them accountable for these crimes.”