Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

UN report on S Sudan horror


JUBA: The witness accounts are appalling. One South Sudanese man returned home after hiding from government soldiers to find they had blinded his mother, gouging out her eyes with spears.

She had tried to defend her 17-year-old daughter from being raped by more than a dozen soldiers and didn’t succeed. Seventeen soldiers then raped her. The family’s father was beheaded.

The latest report on human rights abuses in South Sudan’s fiveyear civil war, released on Friday by a UN commission, includes that horrific day in Pagak town and many others as the team collects evidence in the hopes of one day finding justice.

“I did not expect to be confronted with so much ritual humiliatio­n and degradatio­n deliberate­ly done for multiple reasons. The suffering and cruelty was worse than anyone could have imagined,” Andrew Clapham, a commission member and internatio­nal law professor, said.

One South Sudanese woman told the commission that her 12-year-old son had been forced to have sex with his grandmothe­r to stay alive, the report says.

The findings, with “sufficient evidence” against both President Salva Kiir’s government forces and rebels, identify more than 40 senior military officials, including three state governors, “who may bear individual responsibi­lity for war crimes”.

The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next month. It also will be made available to judicial mechanisms such as a hybrid court for South Sudan, which long has been urged by the internatio­nal community but has never appeared.

Untold tens of thousands have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict erupted in December 2013, just two years after independen­ce from Sudan. More than two million people have fled the country. Millions who remain at home face hunger.

The new UN report is an account of the gang rapes, castration­s, ethnic violence and other abuses that have left much of the impoverish­ed East African nation in despair, while internatio­nal frustratio­n with the warring sides grows. While names of alleged perpetrato­rs are being collected by the UN commission, they are not shared publicly to help protect witnesses who come forward.

The names are being given to the UN human rights office in Geneva.

The report, based on 230 witness statements and other materials, is the second since the UN commission was establishe­d in 2016 and the first since it was given a stronger mandate to preserve evidence and conduct investigat­ions instead of simply monitoring and reporting. – AP/ANA

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