August 24, 2012 (LONDON) — Government soldiers committed murder, torture and rape in the largest and troubled South Sudanese state of Jonglei said the United Nations mission in the new country (UNMISS) on Friday.
- SPLA soldiers take part in a parade during their 29th anniversary celebrations in South Sudan’s Juba, May 16, 2012. (Reuters)
South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit launched last March a large disarmament operation in Jonglei following violent tribal attacks between the Nuer Lou and Murle tribes.
In a speech delivered at this occasion he warned his soldier against committing crimes and urged them to run a responsible operation, to be disciplined and to avoid tribalism.
UNMISS, nevertheless in a statement released on Friday, spoke about "serious human rights violations" allegedly committed by "undisciplined" soldiers who are part of the contingents participating in the disarmament programme in Jonglei.
Between 15 July and 20 August, the mission said that the SPLA soldiers allegedly killed one person. It further said there are "27 allegations of torture or ill-treatment, such as beatings, and simulated drowning in some cases, 12 rapes, six attempted rapes and eight abductions."
The Mission underscored that the victims are generally women and in some cases children.
It also said that "Communities in Pibor County" are worried about the vulnerability of the civilians there.
The international mission highlighted the significant efforts of the South Sudanese army to calm tensions and to protect civilians after the inter-communal violence which claimed the lives of hundreds there.
Pibor is inhabited mainly by the Murle, Kachipo and Jie tribes but the county is ethnically diverse compared to other counties in Jonglei State.
Human Rights Watch said it collected accounts of victims and witnesses from four villages in Pibor county - of Manyirang, Tangajon, Be, and Likuangole- where SPLA soldiers shot at civilians, ill-treated them by beating, tying them with rope, and submerging their heads in water to extract information about the location of weapons.
The peacekeeping mission said the SPLA had ordered to probe the alleged human right violations and to recall those who are involved in criminal incidents.
Further the South Sudanese army, according to UNMISS, have taken some steps "to strengthen investigations, with some arrests in recent rape cases and some older cases going to trial."
Nevertheless, UNMISS and HRW called on the South Sudanese authorities to hold accountable those who committed these abuses against civilians stressing such violations undermine the confidence and collaboration of local communities in the disarmament process.
"The gains of the peace process in Jonglei must not be undermined by these recent incidents," said Hilde F. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan who called for the Government to take action against the perpetrators.
"Justice and accountability in Jonglei seem to have fallen by the wayside," said Daniel Bekele, HRW Africa director. “Authorities should investigate the cycle of violence in Jonglei, immediately put a stop to violations committed in the course of civilian disarmament, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
Established on 8 July 2011, the 7,000 stronghold mission is tasked among others with the support of the South Sudanese government in exercising its responsibilities for conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution and protect civilians.