A report issued Tuesday by the United Nations human rights agency documents grisly attacks on South Sudanese civilians that appeared to be the work of government forces and groups aligned with them.
The 14-page report, which records incidents in southern Unity state in April and May of this year, lists “gross violations and abuses of international human rights” that may amount to war crimes.
At least 232 people were killed and many more injured as violent clashes took place between the SPLA and associated forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, and the opposition SPLA-IO forces aligned with Riek Machar. The report identifies three military leaders among them who had authority in the incidents.
“The perpetrators of these revolting acts against defenseless civilians, including those bearing command responsibility, must not be allowed to get away with it,” said OHCHR chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “There must be consequences for the men who reportedly gang-raped a six-year-old child, who slit the throats of elderly villagers, who hanged women for resisting looting, and shot fleeing civilians in the swamps where they hid.”
Victims and witnesses described how SPLA and aligned forces would storm into villages in the early morning or around dawn, surround the village and start shooting at fleeing civilians, OHCHR said in a statement. The attackers would then steal cattle, loot and burn houses and destroy food stocks.
Zeid called on the Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan and the African Union to move quickly towards establishing a hybrid court for South Sudan to ensure accountability. The nation remains mired in conflict despite multiple rounds of peace deals and ceasefire agreements, including the most recent effort rejected by some armed groups who say they are not parties to the deal.
Image: UNMISS file photo