South Sudan Forces Carried Out Murders, Rape, UN Report Says

  • Human-rights team documented `shocking' sexual violence
  • Government loyalists seen bearing greatest responsibility

Forces loyal to South Sudan’s government enacted a “scorched earth” policy that included rape, abuse and killings of civilians during more than two years of civil war, according to a United Nations report.

The UN Human Rights Office documented the “shocking” scale of sexual violence in the world’s newest nation, with 1,300 reports of rape recorded in one state alone in five months, it said Friday on its website. It cited “credible sources” as saying that militia and government forces were allowed to rape women instead of being paid wages. Many of the actions could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the report.

While “all parties in the conflict” were behind violations, in 2015 “government forces and associated militia bore the greatest responsibility,” the office said. The report recommends that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein request the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan.

Malaak Ayuen Ajok, a South Sudanese army spokesman, said the report was not “well-balanced” and looks like “a conspiracy against the government” and military. He said locations had changed hands with rebels during the fighting and that assigning blame for incidents was difficult. “We have always asked the UN to bring the complaints and we act on them, but they do not want” to do so, he said by phone from the capital, Juba.

Conflict Spread

Conflict that erupted in the oil-producing nation in December 2013 has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced 2 million others to flee their homes. The UN report is based on visits between October and January to the worst-affected parts of Unity and Upper Nile states as well as Western and Central Equatoria, where the conflict has spread in the past year.

Amnesty International said Friday that South Sudanese government forces had “deliberately suffocated” more than 60 men and boys detained in a shipping container in Unity state last year. Soldiers “arbitrarily arrested” the victims in late October and bodies were later seen at a mass burial site, the London-based group said, citing interviews with more than 42 witnesses.

War Crimes

South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth described the report as “lies aimed at tarnishing the legitimate government” and fabricated by rebels. Soldiers are “under obligation to protect civilians,” he said by phone.

The UN said on Friday that a lack of funds is hurting the immediate humanitarian response -- only 8 percent has been committed of the $1.3 billion-plan for emergency assistance, and most of that money was carried over from previously, according to an e-mailed statement from Geneva.

Fighting has spread to new areas, creating a fresh exodus of refugees which hasn’t been accounted for in the current response program, and the lean season that peaks in May, in which food is normally harder to come by, could push central Unity state into a famine affecting at least 40,000 people, the UN said.

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