August 4, 2016 (GENEVA) – United Nations (UN) has said preliminary investigations into recent fighting in South Sudan, and its aftermath, have revealed that forces loyal to President Salva Kiir carried out killings and rapes, and looted and destroyed properties.
The UN human rights chief on Thursday called on the Security Council to take stronger action against the perpetrators of the crimes.
“Tensions remain very high, and violations continue to take place in Juba and other parts of the country,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, after providing a written update to the Security Council on the preliminary findings of ongoing UN investigations into the five days of fighting that began in the capital Juba on 7 July, and its aftermath.
The UN human rights top official said that information received by UN human rights officers suggested that hundreds of fighters and civilians were killed during the initial fighting.
It said while some civilians were killed in crossfire between the fighting forces, others were reportedly summarily executed by government’s SPLA soldiers, who appeared to have specifically targeted people of Nuer origin.
The report cited as examples two separate incidents on 11 July in which soldiers of the national army, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels, where they shot four of them. On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.
At least 73 civilian deaths have been catalogued so far by the UN, but it is believed the civilian death toll may in fact turn out to be much higher. The UN said it was denied access to some of the hardest-hit areas in the days following the conflict and a number of restrictions on movement remain in place.
“The fighting also resulted in widespread sexual violence, including rape and gang rape by soldiers in uniform and men in plain clothes,” Zeid said, adding that Nuer, Dinka and women from the three Equatorian states were all targeted, along with foreign nationals. Many victims were minors.
“We have documented at least 217 cases of sexual violence in Juba between 8 and 25 July,” Zeid said.
“In a few areas, women from various ethnic groups were raped by heavily armed youth believed to be affiliated to the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA/IO),” the report said.
“However, according to the information we have gathered so far, those most affected were displaced Nuer women and girls and those responsible seem to have been mostly SPLA.”
“Sexual violence continued after the initial fighting subsided and over 100 women and girls are reported to have been raped or gang-raped on the road leading out of Juba towards Yei. On 18 July, for example, 35 women and girls were reportedly raped in two separate incidents: firstly, 28 women, including 12 minors, were allegedly assaulted at an SPLA checkpoint at the Jebel Junction on the Yei Road; and in the second incident that day, seven other women were reportedly raped on the road between two Protection of Civilians sites, where people – mostly Nuer — displaced by earlier rounds of fighting are protected by UNMISS peacekeepers,” it further said.
During the five days of fighting in Juba, it added, thousands more people were forcibly displaced, and many civilians were denied access to safety in UN compounds by SPLA soldiers manning the various checkpoints that sprang up across Juba.
“There have also been reports of forced recruitment by the SPLA, including of children, in Bor,” it said.
The UN High Commissioner urged the Transitional Government of National Unity to restore dialogue and take steps to ensure justice and accountability, and called on the international community to put real pressure on the government to halt violence and respect the life of all South Sudanese.
“The severity of the recent violence, and the very dangerous ethnic undertone, call for urgent action by the Security Council,” he said.