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Continued impunity following grave human rights violations in South Sudan: UN

January 16, 2017 (JUBA) – Grave human rights violations and abuses, including killings and gang rapes as well as serious violations of international humanitarian law were committed in Juba during and after the fighting that occurred between 8 and 12 July 2016, according to a new report released by the United Nations on Tuesday.

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Thousands of civilians fleeing violence seek shelter at a UN compound in Jonglei state capital, Bor (Photo: UNMISS/Hailemichael Gebrekrstos)

According to the newly released UN report, six months after the violence there remains widespread impunity as violations continue unabated.

“Information documented and verified by the Human Rights Division suggests that hundreds of people including civilians were killed and many more wounded during the fighting in various areas of Juba,” the report, documented by the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office, partly reads.

“Moreover, UNMISS documented 217 victims of rape, including gang-rape committed by SPLA, SPLM/A-IO and other armed groups during and after the fighting between 8 and 25 July,” it added.

Testimonies from victims and witness’ accounts, the report says, showed that most cases of sexual violence were committed by South Sudan army, police officers and security services agents.

It further stressed, “The belligerents blatantly ignored international human rights law and humanitarian law.”

In various reports released last year, the parties involved in the South Sudanese conflict were, on several occasions, implicated in serious human rights violations and abuses, including targeting civilians along ethnic lines as well as violence against women and children.

On one occasion, the report says, women and girls were ordered to cook for the soldiers at checkpoints when their friends or family members were raped. There were also several arrests of Nuer men reportedly made and the whereabouts of some of them unknown.

“The fighting that erupted in July 2016 was a serious setback for peace in South Sudan and showed just how volatile the situation in the country is, with civilians living under the risk of mass atrocities,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

At least1.4 million South Sudanese have fled to other countries and another 1.8 million are displaced in their own country, he added.

Zeid reminded government of its obligation to protect the rights of all South Sudanese and bring to an end the desperate suffering of the people.

The report, however, emphasizes the need for accountability and justice for all human rights violations, further urging the Transitional Government of National Unity to take action to “break the cycle of violence and impunity” and take steps to fully support the prompt establishment and operationalization of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan by the African Union.

The report also recommends that the state ensures that all victims of human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, have access to an effective remedy, just and fair reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation.