UN: South Sudan guilty of killing civilians, possible war crimes
The UN on Friday accused South Sudanese soldiers of killing over 100 civilians and other atrocities that may constitute war crimes during the second half of last year.
In a report published on Friday, the UN says pro-government SPLA fighters killed at least 114 civilians around Yei town between July 2016 and January this year. While the report also cites rape, torture abductions and a wide range of human rights abuses that could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
News of civilians being targeted by both government and rebel troops in South Sudan’s ethnically-driven civil war are nothing new, but this is the first report to emerge from a UN investigation into events surrounding Yei town last year.
During a seven-month campaign, South Sudanese forces pursued rebel leader Riek Machar, who was on the run after fleeing the capital Juba in May 2016. The chase took them to the southern town of Yei, which lies above the border to DR Congo where Machar had fled to.
Reports of civilians being targeted by South Sudanese soldiers quickly emerged, prompting the UN to start its own investigation. The organisation says its figures may only be a fraction of the atrocities that took place in the area during the seven-month period.
Grave human rights violations
“Attacks were committed with an alarming degree of brutality and, like elsewhere in the country, appeared to have an ethnic dimension,” a report on the UN investigation said on Friday.
“These cases included attacks on funerals and indiscriminate shelling of civilians; cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting; often committed in front of the victims’ families.”
South Sudan’s Colonel Santo Domic Chol told Reuters on Friday that the UN’s report was “baseless”, accusing the organisation of attempting to “portray us as enemies of the people.”
Featured image: By Al Jazeera English – Kiir awaits, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17499385