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SPLM-IO releases 78 abducted women in Western Equatoria: UN

February 4, 2020 (JUBA) - The U.N. special envoy on sexual violence in conflict Tuesday welcomed the release of 78 women and 50 children held by the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria region.

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Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN photo)

The released women were part of more than 500 abducted between April and August 2018 and subjected to repeated rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage by the rebel group according to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2018.

"I welcome the release of these women and children, which follows many months of sustained advocacy and engagement by my Office, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the Senior Women Protection Advisor with Dr Riek Machar and his local commanders," said Special Representative Pramila Patten.

Patten discussed the case of these women with the SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar during a meeting held in Addis Ababa on 23 July 2019. Following what, he issued a command order to release all the women held against their will and transfer them to the UN.

"This order was in line with the Unilateral Communiqué on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which was signed by the SPLA-IO in 2014 in the framework of my mandate," added Patten.

The statement said that the released women are now supported by the UN and have been referred to medical and psychosocial support structures.

Several women have already been identified as pregnant and have been referred to prenatal healthcare facilities, according to the statement.