UNMISS report outlines rights abuses in South Sudan conflict

24 Feb 2014

UNMISS report outlines rights abuses in South Sudan conflict

21 February 2014 - UNMISS released a report today outlining human rights abuses committed by both sides to the South Sudan conflict, including rapes, mass killings and torture.

It warns that civilians are continuing to be targeted during the crisis, which erupted towards the end of last year in the capital Juba between government and opposition forces, and rapidly spread to several other states.

“It is clear that civilians bore the brunt of much of the fighting and that gross violations of human rights were committed,” states the interim report prepared for the Security Council.

The report provides an initial account of human rights violations and atrocities perpetrated during hostilities between 15 December 2013 and the end of January 2014.

It focuses on alleged human rights abuses that occurred in the four states of South Sudan that have seen the heaviest fighting to date – Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile – between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar.

"Numerous witnesses reported the deliberate targeting of both national and foreign civilians in extrajudicial and other unlawful killings, including mass killings, enforced disappearances, gender-based violence, such as rapes and gang rapes, and instances of ill-treatment and torture by forces from both sides of the conflict,” the mission said in a news release.

The report notes that large numbers of civilians were deliberately targeted and killed along ethnic lines and many more were displaced for similar reasons. For example, soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) reportedly engaged in killings of Nuer residents of Juba during the initial 72 hours of the crisis.

Conversely, Dinka civilians in the Upper Nile state capital Malakal were allegedly killed by armed Nuer youths as well as SPLA and South Sudan National Police Service defectors. UNMISS is also investigating reports of mass graves in Juba, Bentiu and Rubkona.

The mission noted with deep regret that civilians have continued to be targeted and killed in the conflict in South Sudan. Fresh evidence of continuing human rights abuses surfaced during the recent battle for control of the Upper Nile state capital Malakal.

An UNMISS patrol visited the city centre yesterday and collected eyewitness testimony from residents alleging that armed opposition forces targeted and killed 10 unarmed civilians at Malakal Teaching Hospital on the basis of their ethnic background on 19 February.

UNMISS staff in Malakal also witnessed the extra-judicial execution of two children outside the perimeter of the UN compound yesterday by armed youths believed to be allied with armed opposition forces. The mission strongly condemned the continuing perpetration of such human rights abuses and called on all parties to the current crisis to desist from committing additional atrocities.

The patrol that visited Malakal found it “had been looted and appeared to be generally empty of civilians”. More sporadic fighting occurred close to the UNMISS compound today.

Holding perpetrators to account is crucial to ensure respect for human rights and also as a means to address underlying causes of the country’s current crisis, the report states.

"Accountability is crucial for a national reconciliation process to take root and succeed,” said Hilde Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and head of UNMISS. “Without bringing to justice the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes, revenge and impunity is likely to lead to a perpetual cycle of violence.”