UN ac­cuses South Su­dan troops of com­mit­ting atroc­i­ties

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

JUBA — The United Na­tions’ top hu­man-rights of­fi­cial has ac­cused South Su­danese gov­ern­ment troops and rebels of eth­ni­cally tar­geted atroc­i­ties, in­clud­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions and rapes, dur­ing re­newed fighting over the last month.

UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights (UNHCHR) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein said on Thurs­day that pre­lim­i­nary find­ings showed that the ma­jor­ity of crimes were car­ried out by troops loyal to Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir, who is from the Dinka eth­nic group, against peo­ple of Nuer ori­gin.

Of 217 cases of sex­ual vi­o­lence in Juba recorded by the UN be­tween July 8 and 25, “those most af­fected were displaced Nuer women and girls and those re­spon­si­ble seem to have been mostly SPLA [gov­ern­ment troops],” Zeid said.

Su­dan Peo­ple's Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment-in-Op­po­si­tion (SPLM-IO), the main armed op­po­si­tion group, has also been blamed for atroc­i­ties, but to a lesser ex­tent.

Al­most 300 peo­ple, in­clud­ing at least 73 civil­ians, were killed in the re­cent fighting.

Tens of thou­sands of South Su­danese civil­ians were forced to flee the coun­try, mainly into neigh­bour­ing Uganda. More than 1,6 mil­lion peo­ple in to­tal have been displaced in the coun­try from the con­flict.

A state­ment re­leased by Zeid’s of­fice said that while cross­fire dur­ing the worst of the fighting had killed peo­ple in the streets of the cap­i­tal Juba, some were tar­geted.

“Oth­ers were re­port­edly sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted by gov­ern­ment [SPLA] sol­diers, who ap­pear to have specif­i­cally tar­geted peo­ple of Nuer ori­gin,” the state­ment said.

On July 11, SPLA sol­diers went house-to-house, tak­ing away and shoot­ing eight Nuer civil­ians, the UN said, adding that they had also killed a Nuer jour­nal­ist.

The epi­demic of sex­ual vi­o­lence that has plagued three years of on-off fighting in South Su­dan also had an eth­nic di­men­sion when sol­diers car­ried out rapes in and out­side Juba.

Ru­pert Colville, a UNHCHR spokesper­son, told Al Jazeera that the num­ber of civil­ians killed may be a bit higher than 73 and de­scribed the sex­ual vi­o­lence as “hor­ren­dous”.

“The over­all pic­ture of sex­ual as­saults, rapes and gang rapes on women is hor­ren­dous. There are a very large num­ber of cases. Some­times it hap­pened in broad day­light and in large groups,” he said.

Colville also called on the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion and charge the troops ac­cused of rape and mur­der, which he said is “some­thing that never hap­pens in South Su­dan”.

Michael Makuei, South Su­dan’s in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter, told Al Jazeera that the gov­ern­ment will hold troops ac­cused of crimes ac­count­able.

“The Gov­ern­ment has al­ready given or­ders to the army and reg­u­lar forces that who­ever is im­pli­cated for any of­fence is ar­rested,” he said, adding that “there are over 200 sol­diers who are un­der ar­rest and are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated”.

“And if there are any cases of sex­ual as­saults, then any­body who was as­saulted should re­port it to us and we will take the nec­es­sary ac­tion.”

How­ever, he also called the UN al­le­ga­tions “mis­lead­ing” and said that the rebel group SPLM-IO and the UN peace­keep­ing force — known as UNMISS — were most likely re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lent at­tacks against civil­ians.

The 13 500-strong UNMISS force in the coun­try has faced crit­i­cism for fail­ing to stem the lat­est vi­o­lence fighting.

The force com­mand is in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that peace­keep­ers at a base in Juba stood by and did noth­ing as a woman screamed for help dur­ing an as­sault by two sol­diers near the gate of their base.

The UN com­mis­sioner ad­dressed this, urg­ing “strong ac­tion in those in­stances where UN mil­i­tary per­son­nel de­faulted over their duty to pro­tect civil­ians”.

Although the Gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished a court aimed at try­ing SPLA sol­diers who com­mit right abuses, “the vi­o­la­tions con­tinue un­abated”, Zeid said, along with the forcible re­cruit­ment of boys and men.

The coun­try is also strug­gling to cope with a grow­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis as UN camps be­come over­whelmed with displaced and mal­nour­ished peo­ple. — AlJazeera. or fully pro­tect civil­ians dur­ing the

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