The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (photo credit UN):
By Kidega Livingstone
The United Nations has in a new report accused government forces and allied militias of alleged potential “war crimes” over a campaign of rape and killing that targeted civilians in opposition areas and villages of Unity State.
According to the UN human rights office in a report released yesterday, at least 232 civilians were killed and 120 women and girls raped during an offensive between 16th April and 24 May this year in the country’s Unity state.
The report described how 40 villages were attacked during the period in question by the government’s SPLA and associated forces, during which 120 girls and women were raped or gang-raped.
Opposition forces were also accused of killings, in the area during the same period.
However contacted for comment, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Spokesperson Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang said that the SPLA could not comment on the report because they didn’t have it by yesterday.
The army spokesperson asked for time to analyse the report in order to give their position on the allegation against government forces.
“The SPLA is yet to react because we are going to look for the report and read it in order to provide right information in that direction,” Lul said when contacted on phone by the Juba Monitor.
The report identified three commanders as bearing the “greatest responsibility” in the violence.
The 17-page report cited victims of the alleged crimes ranging from a six-year-old who investigators say was gang-raped by soldiers, and elderly and disabled villagers who were tortured.
According to the researchers, “victims and witnesses also informed [investigators] that after taking control of villages, the attackers forced the survivors to give them money.
“Those who did not comply immediately were reportedly beaten or killed by hanging also to terrorise the population further and force survivors to comply. The Human Rights Division allegedly documented 25 killings of women by hanging in 10 villages.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement yesterday called on South Sudan government to halt all attacks against civilians, launch investigations and hold the perpetrators accountable.
“The perpetrators of these revolting acts against defenceless civilians, including those bearing command responsibility, must not be allowed to get away with it,” Zeid said.
“There must be consequences for the men who reportedly gang-raped a six-year-old child, who slit the throats of elderly villagers, who hanged women for resisting looting, and shot fleeing civilians in the swamps where they hid.
“Those who ordered and facilitated these horrific crimes must be brought to account. The government of South Sudan and the international community have the obligation to ensure justice.”