Widespread human rights abuses by all sides as South Sudan peace process gets underway
Widespread human rights violations and abuses have been committed in South Sudan by all parties to the conflict since December 2013, including hundreds of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, forced recruitment and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, according to a UN report published today.
The report, by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), shows that “very few places in areas of conflict have been safe, as the parties have intentionally attacked traditional safe havens, such as places of worship, hospitals and, from time to time, United Nations bases.”
These attacks reveal a shocking disregard for civilian life, the report says, with an increasing number of armed groups and communities being involved in the violence. “From the middle of 2015, a new pattern emerged, particularly in the central and southern counties of Unity State, with entire villages being burned down, food crops destroyed and livestock looted. There are indications that this may have been a deliberate strategy by the government or the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) aimed at depriving civilians of any source of livelihood with a view to forcing their displacement,” says the report.
The report documents at least 280 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, including gang-rape, sexual slavery and forced abortion. There has also been sharp increase in child recruitment, with at least 13,000 to 15,000 child soldiers, recruited mainly, but not solely, by opposition forces, as of December 2015.
“Despite the severity of the human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both sides to the conflict, there are no tangible accountability mechanisms beyond the rhetoric of the main belligerents,” says the report.
“Accountability must be a fundamental element of the ongoing peace process. I hope that this report, by showing how the conflict has impacted the lives of ordinary South Sudanese, will inform the emerging processes aimed at the implementation of the IGAD-facilitated Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) that was signed by the parties in August 2015,” said Ellen Margrethe Loej, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS. “It is time to end the cycle of impunity that has allowed these violations to occur and embrace a brighter future of sustainable peace for all South Sudanese,” she added.
“The constant attacks on women, the rape, enslavement and slaughter of innocents; the recruitment of thousands upon thousands of child soldiers; the deliberate displacement of vast numbers of people in such a harsh and poverty-stricken country -- these are abhorrent practices that must be halted,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
“Accountability and justice sound like empty words in such a bleak landscape, but they are essential if South Sudan is to come out of this terrible period,” Zeid added. “The current regional and international peace efforts offer some hope that this perpetual cycle of bloodshed and misery can be brought to an end, and I urge all sides to negotiate in good faith.”
Distributed by APO on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).