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South Sudan Urged by Rights Group to End Torture of Civilians

Amnesty International urged South Sudan’s government to prevent security forces from torturing and abusing civilians in the restive Jonglei state.

Researchers working in Jonglei’s Pibor county documented reports of civilians being shot dead, raped, beaten and tortured by having their heads forced under water by police and members of the army, which is known as the SPLA, the London-based advocacy group said in an e-mailed statement today. Army spokesman Phillip Aguer had his phone turned off and government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin didn’t answer his phone when called for comment.

“Far from bringing security to the region, the SPLA and the police auxiliary forces have committed shocking human-rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa director, said in the statement.

South Sudan began a disarmament campaign in Jonglei in the wake of clashes late 2011 and early this year in which about 8,000 members of the Lou Nuer community attacked the ethnic Murle group in Pibor. The United Nations said about 900 people, mostly Murle, were killed in raids and counter-attacks from December to February. In addition, the UN said about 1,000 people from both ethnic groups died in clashes throughout 2011.

Aguer and Benjamin have previously said the authorities are investigating and prosecuting officers who commit abuses.

Oil Concession

Jonglei, an eastern state bordering Ethiopia, is mostly covered by the Block B oil concession that was split by the government into three blocks last month. Chinese, European and U.S. companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX), are among the bidders for exploration rights in two of the new blocks, Benjamin said on Sept. 26. The third will be handed to Total SA, which previously controlled the entire Block B, he said.

The disarmament campaign in Jonglei has been criticized by organizations including New York-based Human Rights Watch and the UN peacekeeping mission, which have both accused security forces of carrying out abuses in Pibor.

Amnesty said the government should do more to investigate attacks and to monitor the disarmament campaign. It also urged the UN to deploy peacekeepers to areas where there is potential for soldiers to commit abuses.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jared Ferrie in Juba via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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