August 15, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s rival forces killed and raped civilians, extensively looting their property, including humanitarian goods, during and after clashes that occurred in Juba last month, a New-York based rights body said.
- Arms and light weapons have been used by both warring parties in South Sudan to commit abuses (Photo courtesy of SSANSA)
In many cases, according to Human Rights Watch, government forces appeared to target non-Dinka civilians.
As a result of indiscriminate attacks, including shooting and shelling, shells landed in camps for displaced people inside United Nations bases, and in other densely populated areas in the city, killing and wounding civilians, the rights group said.
Clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar clashed in the capital left over 270 people dead and displaced thousands.
The rights body mainly faulted government soldiers for the multiple crimes committed on civilians in the young nation.
“A year after South Sudan’s leaders signed a peace deal, civilians are dying, women are being raped, and millions of people are afraid to go home,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a report issued Monday.
“On August 12, the UN decided to send more peacekeepers to Juba but put off a long-overdue arms embargo. The continued supply of arms only helps fuel the abuses on a larger scale,” he added.
The latest violence came barely four months after the formation a coalition government under a peace agreement signed in August 2015. The rival factions agreed to integrate their forces and establish the hybrid court.
Under the deal, however, the African Union Commission was to set up the court, with South Sudanese and other African judges and staff to be completed by October 2016.
This follows the series of documented cases of targeted killings, rapes and gang rapes, beatings, looting, and harassment, often along ethnic lines, said to have been committed several areas of the capital and its outskirts.
“South Sudanese leaders have time and again failed to end abuses against civilians, been unwilling to rein in abusive forces or ensure justice for crimes by those under their command,” said Bekele.
“There is no more excuse for delay: top leaders need to be sanctioned and an arms embargo imposed. The UN has to be more effective in protecting civilians and the AU should move ahead with the hybrid court,” he added.
Officials from the country’s two rival factions are yet to comment on the damning report.
Meanwhile, the rights body has appealed to the United Nations and its member countries to impose targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on those responsible for serious human rights abuses in South Sudan.
The African Union Commission and donors, it added, should proceed without delay with preparations for a hybrid court to investigate and try the most serious crimes committed since the start of South Sudan’s new war in 2013, including during the recent fighting.