SRSG Johnson outlines UNMISS protection role

23 Apr 2012

SRSG Johnson outlines UNMISS protection role

23 April 2012 - Although UNMISS had a protection of civilians mandate, it had no military capabilities to protect them from air strikes, UNMISS Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Hilde F. Johnson said today in the capital Juba.

The UNMISS mandate did not protect South Sudanese territory and was not intended to protect property, Ms. Johnson added, addressing the media at UNMISS Juba headquarters following this morning's air strikesin the Unity State capital of Bentiu.

"The means we have at our disposal is advocacy, it is to voice our concern and to make it clear that it is a violation of international law ...," she said, noting that stronger measures are not in the hands of the mission but in those of the Security Council.

The SRSG also emphasized that UNMISS had presence only in South Sudan and could not verify anything happening across the border or the means beyond those already mentioned to address the conflict.

"It is up to the Security Council and up to the mediators between the north and the south to address these problems and try to assist in de-escalating the tensions," she said.

During today's bombings, fighter jets dropped one bomb on Rubkona Market area and three around Rubkona Bridge, according to UNMISS military liaison officers in Bentiu. Two people, one a child, died in the attack and 10 were reported injured.

Air raids were carried out concurrently in neighbouring Abienhom County, leaving four injured, according to Unity State Minister of Information and Communications Gideon Gatpan Thoar Kon. Bentiu's residents have begun to flee to neighbouring towns, he said.

Ms. Johnson condemned the repeated bombardment of civilian locations, describing them as "troubling".

"We deplore the continued bombardments of the Unity State capital of Bentiu and its civilian population," the Special Representative said. "Indiscriminate bombings resulting in the loss of civilian life must stop."

She reminded Sudan and South Sudan of their obligation to abide by international human rights and international humanitarian law.

Tensions between the two countries intensified in the last few weeks, following South Sudan's occupation of Heglig oilfield located in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state on 10 April.

Sudan Armed Forces responded by bombarding South Sudan's Unity State over the last two weeks, killing 13 civilians and wounding 25 others.

On 20April, South Sudanese forces announced they would be withdrawing voluntarily from Heglig.

SRSG Johnson impressed upon both parties that they were obligated to take all measures to protect the lives of civilians and to guarantee the safety of aid organizations and United Nations personnel and assets.