JUBA. A UN report released on Monday says grave human rights violations, killings and gang rapes, and widespread impunity still continue unabated in the war-torn country six months after renewed violence erupted in the capital Juba in July 2016.
The report jointly published by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says serious violations of international humanitarian law occurred during and after the July fighting which killed hundreds.
"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 states. The report says it documented testimonies from civilians who were subjected to horrifying violence abuses during the fighting.
On one occasion, women and girls were ordered to cook for the soldiers at checkpoints when their friends or family members were raped. The report says targeted killings and arrests particularly of men and women from the Nuer ethnic tribe were carried out by South Sudanese security officials. The report further notes that the government conducted house-to-house searches, with Nuers with tribal markings on their foreheads particularly vulnerable, adding that whereabouts of some of those arrested remain unknown. The UNMISS said it 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. The UNMISS further said witnesses' accounts and testimonies from victims indicate that most cases of sexual violence were committed by SPLA soldiers, police officers and members of the National Security Services (NSS).
The UNMISS warned that human rights situation remains grave in South Sudan especially in the Greater Equatoria regions of Yambio and Yei. The UN Human Rights Office has received credible reports of serious human rights violations and abuses committed by SPLA and SPLM/A-IO in and around Yei, including killings, sexual violence, abductions and destruction of civilian property. The report further adds that fighting early this month in and around Yambio in Western Equatoria resulted in a further displacement of at least 7,000 civilians, mostly women and children.
"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 is quoted by the report.
Colonel Santo Domic Chol, Acting SPLA spokesman declined to comment on the report, maintaining that the army is yet to receive the report from the UN before issuing any statement. The report urges the South Sudanese government to take action to ensure accountability and justice for all human rights violations to in order to end the "the cycle of violence and impunity." The UN also called for prompt establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan by the African Union. South Sudan tumbled into civil war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilised a rebel force. A peace pact signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in last April, but was devastated by renewed fighting in July 2016. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, over two million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure since December 2013.