UN rights commissioner Pillay visits Jonglei

11 May 2012

UN rights commissioner Pillay visits Jonglei

10 May 2012 - A top UN human rights official today urged the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to respect people's rights in Jonglei State, where it is currently conducting civilian disarmament.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern in meetings with state officials during her one-day visit to the Jonglei capital Bor that the SPLA had been implicated in human rights violations during disarmament.

"In the course of SPLA activity, we tracked some human rights violations such as rape and some assaults," said Ms. Pillay, who is in South Sudan on a five-day visit, which began on 8 May.

State Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk said the SPLA had dealt with all soldiers accused of human rights violations.

SPLA Commander Lt. Gen. Kuol Dim Kuol said the military was in Jonglei according to the 2009 SPLA Act, and that his officers respected people and property.

Ms. Pillay, whose party included UNMISS Human Rights Director Richard Bennet and Ashraf Akasha of the South Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Human Rights Department, also expressed regret that the SPLA had lost soldiers during disarmament.

"I sympathize with that, I understand the dangers they face as they confront illegally armed individuals in large numbers," the high commissioner said.

Governor Juuk stated that deaths in Jonglei resulting from cattle raiding, woman and child abduction as well as forced marriages were human rights violations they were working to eliminate.

He said these violations, which arose from inter-ethnic conflict, could only be eradicated through development. "The conflict in Jonglei is not a tribal conflict. It is a poverty driven conflict."

Mr. Manyang added that state rule of law institutions were undeveloped with poor prison conditions and few judges.

The governor asked the high commissioner for a legal aid centre to protect the rights of women and children as well as a DNA testing facility to help them identify rightful parents of children recovered from abductors.

UNMISS State Coordinator Guang Cong told Ms. Pillay in a briefing that the biggest challenge facing the government, UN and international community was inter-ethnic conflict between communities in the area.

But he lauded on-going reconciliation and peace building efforts, including the recently concluded Jonglei All Peace Conference, which brought together communities in the state.

"It was significant in the sense that that is the first time ever all the six communities gathered together in Bor," Mr. Cong said. Previously reconciliation efforts have been between two or three communities.

He added that the government had followed up its protection of civilian role by deploying over 15,000 military and police personnel to secure the state, citizens and property. He also noted that over 32 abducted children had been recovered by the SPLA.

UNMISS Human Rights Director Richard Bennet said the mission would soon be deploying women protection advisors to different state offices to bolster the protection of women.