OHCHR press briefing notes - (1) South Sudan, (2) Maldives
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
(1) South Sudan
We deplore the recent outbreaks of violence in several towns in various part of South Sudan, including Pajok in Eastern Equatoria and Wau in Western Bahr el-Ghazal, which have caused significant loss of civilian lives and displaced more than 22,000 people. Visits by the Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to these sites have revealed reports of serious human rights violations, including indiscriminate and targeted killings of civilians, sexual violence and the looting and destruction of civilian property – and widespread impunity for the violations.
In Pajok, following an ambush by armed individuals on the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on 3 April, there was an outbreak of violence over two days, when the army reportedly attacked civilians on the basis of their suspected support for the opposition armed groups, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition). As a result of the violence, about 7,000 civilians fled into the bush and to neighbouring Uganda over a week. During their visit, human rights officers saw clear evidence of killings and looting. Multiple testimonies indicate that SPLA soldiers killed civilians who were unable to flee and targeted young boys and men on the basis of their ethnicity. The Human Rights Division also received reports of three incidents of sexual violence involving six women. Local authorities, including the SPLA, said the men suspected of involvement in one of the incidents had been arrested and were detained by the army. But the authorities have denied allegations of mass atrocities against civilians.
In Wau, following an incident on 9 April, when two high-ranking SPLA officers and 17 soldiers were reportedly killed in an ambush by suspected SPLM/A in Opposition elements, violence erupted on 10 April. Again, there were many civilian casualties – 28 civilians were killed according to Government figures. Several witnesses indicated that SPLA and armed Dinka men conducted house-to-house searches, questioning civilians about their ethnicity prior to shooting them. Some 17,000 civilians fled to the protection of civilians site adjacent to the UNMISS base in Wau while another 5,000 sought refuge in the compound of the Catholic Church in Wau.
While the Governor of Wau has established a committee to produce a comprehensive report to determine the motive for the attacks, identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable, we are concerned that to date our information indicates that nobody has been detained in connection with these attacks against civilians.
The widespread impunity in South Sudan for such horrendous attacks against civilians can only encourage further violence. We urge the authorities to ensure that those responsible for the violence in Pajok and Wau are held to account, regardless of their affiliations and rank.
The Human Rights Division missions took place in Pajok between 11 and 14 April and in Wau from 18 to 23 April.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).