February 19, 2017 (JUBA/GENEVA) – A senior United Nations official has condemned the deplorable human rights situation in war-town South Sudan, saying perpetrators should be held accountable.
- Non-food items distributing to IDPS by the UNHCR workers in Maridi on 4 March 2016 (ST Photo)
The U.N Assistant Secretary-General for human rights, Andrew Gilmour, made these remark after a four-day visit to South Sudan.
He called on those committing atrocities and crimes in the country to be held accountable.
“This is a war that has been waged against the men, women and children of South Sudan,” said Gilmour.
“And the only way of ending this onslaught will be when the perpetrators face consequences for what they are doing,” he added.
While in Juba, Gilmour reportedly held meetings in Juba with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Minister of Information, the Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, the Director General of the National Security Service, representatives of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, local authorities, religious leaders, UN and humanitarian partners, aid workers, victims and civil society actors.
During his visit, Gilmour also travelled to Malakal, where he received further information on the suffering of the civilian population in the area.
“Although this is the fourth time I’ve been in South Sudan since 2011, I wasn’t prepared for the shocking devastation I witnessed in Malakal and even more by the clear pattern of systematic human rights violations and abuses suffered by the population,” Gilmour said.
The senior U.N official was reportedly informed of the appalling risks that women, now living under U.N protection, are forced to take in order to be able to earn even the most meagre livelihood.
Rape and gang rape is present in the testimonies of numerous women in the area, though this was categorically denied by the SPLA Division Commander with whom Gilmour spoke, the U.N said.
“It is utterly abhorrent that women in this area have to choose between getting raped or getting a livelihood,” Gilmour said, “But this seems the brutal reality of what South Sudan has become.”
In March 2016, the U.N human rights office issued a report which documented horrendous patterns of sexual violence in the country.
In his meetings with the authorities in Juba, Gilmour raised concerns about the unspeakable human rights situation throughout the territory. He urged the authorities to combat the worrying rise of hate speech and to do more to protect human rights defenders.
In his meeting with the Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, Paul Malong, Gilmour emphasized the severe restrictions on access that UNMISS faces when trying to protect civilians, provide humanitarian assistance and monitor the human rights situation in the country.
He stressed his concern that elements of the SPLA had engaged in what could well amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. On the other hand he welcomed the recent start of UN human rights training for the SPLA and the appointment of SPLA focal points on conflict related sexual violence.
“Of course we know that until there’s peace in South Sudan, human rights will continue to be trampled,” the Assistant Secretary-General said. “But even during war, one can fight without routinely committing such needless acts of cruelty. And this is what we are calling on all parties – government and opposition – to do.”
Gilmour urged the Director General of South Sudan’s National Security Service to put an end to the practice of arbitrary and prolonged detention without charge, bring detainee before the courts, and allow them access to their lawyers and family.