February 26, 2017 (BOR) - A group of South Sudanese Catholic bishops have accused the country’s warring factions of committing war crimes, targeting and humiliating civilians across the county while agitating for justice to be done.
- A group of Bishops in Juba (ST/file)
Nine Bishops, in a letter witnessed by the apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan and Kenya, condemned what they described as the atrocities committed by militants against civilians in the country, saying it constituted a “war crime”.
“While authorities calm situation for people to return to their homes, there is nothing left for people, since the forces used “scorch earth” warfare. The authorities may claim they are free to return to their homes, in practice, they fear to do so. In places the destruction has been described to us as scorched earth, what have people got left to return to? All of this is a form of “collective punishment”, which is outlawed as a war crime under the Geneva conventions”, reads the letter Sudan Tribune obtained.
The violence, the argued in the letter, has mainly been perpetrated by government and opposition forces against innocent civilians in the world’s youngest nation.
“Killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted, harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting their crops,” further reads the clerics’ letter.
“Even when they have fled to our churches and UN camps, they are still harassed by security forces. Not only are they being killed, but their bodies are also mutilated, and burned. People had been herded into their houses, which were then set on fire to burn occupants. Bodies had been dumped into sewage-filled septic tanks. This is a general lack of respect for human life”, it adds.
The Bishops have planned a meeting with President Salva Kiir and other government officials as they seek remedies to the civil war in South Sudan.
At least 100,000 people, aid agencies said, are facing starvation in parts of the country while 4.9 million of them need urgent humanitarian assistance.