November 23, 2016 (JUBA)- Government and rebel forces in and around South Sudan’s town of Yei committed serious abuses against civilians in recent months, a U.S-based human rights body revealed.
- SPLA forces in Wau town on May 16; 2016 (ST Photo)
The abuses, Human Rights Watch said, include killings, rapes, and arbitrary arrests by government forces and abductions by rebels.
Hundreds of people have fled from South Sudan’s Greater Equatoria region as a result of continuous clashed between the South Sudan army and rebels, with the warring factions accused of attacking civilians.
These attacks followed renewed clashes in the capital, Juba between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, Riek Machar in July.
Abuses documented, Human Rights Watch said, are the latest examples of attacks on civilians by both sides involved in the conflict.
“A proposal for a United Nations arms embargo is finally on the table after nearly three years of atrocities against civilians by armed groups in South Sudan,” said Daniel Bekele, senior director for Africa advocacy at Human Rights Watch.
“Security Council members should urgently support the measure, which could help stem the attacks on civilians,” he added.
According to the rights body, between October 19 and 26, its researchers interviewed more than 70 victims and witnesses in Yei, the capital of the newly created Yei River state, in Central Equatoria.
“Because of ongoing insecurity, researchers were unable to reach and assess areas outside of Yei, including Mugwo, Rubeke, and Mitika, on the road to Lasu, places where there have been further serious allegations of abuses,” the rights body said on Wednesday.
The U.S-based body cited a 23 August, 2016 incident, in which unidentified attackers entered a house and killed a mother and her 4-year-old daughter with machetes, then dumped their bodies in a river. The 4-month-old baby was cut on the neck but survived, it said.
The killings reportedly took place in areas controlled by government forces but in this and some other cases, Human Rights Watch was unable to identify if the attackers were government forces or rebels.
Cases of arbitrary detentions of civilian men by government troops in Yei military facilities, in addition to several incidences of arbitrary detentions by the military in the towns of Juba, Yambio, and Wau.
Human Rights Watch researchers reportedly also found that rebels claiming affiliation with the opposition forces led by Machar ambushed a convoy of cars carrying civilians fleeing Yei, killing mostly Dinka, who are from the same broad ethnic grouping as Kiir.
Meanwhile, the rights body said the UN Security Council members should support the U.S proposal for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions.
“Security Council members should also press for progress on establishing the African Union (AU) hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute people responsible for war crimes and other serious violations of the laws of war during the conflict,” it said.