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Unity state marred by violent killings, rapes and abductions -UN report

Unity state marred by violent killings, rapes and abductions -UN report
Nicholas Haysom - Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Courtesy

A new report by the United Nations has indicted government forces, allied militia groups, and the SPLA-IO for committing gross human rights violations in Unity state, South Sudan between February and May this year.

The report indicates that over 170 civilians have been killed, 2 others wounded amid continued fighting in the restive state.

37 women and children have also been abducted.

The joint report by the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN Mission in South Sudan further revealed that there are approximately 44,000 civilians who were displaced during the fighting that affected at least 26 villages.

Launched on Tuesday, the report covers areas such as Koch, Leer and Mayendit where there have been incidents of violence between government forces and opposition groups.

“A total of 131 cases of rape and gang rape were documented during research conducted by UNMISS in the 3 Counties of Koch, Leer and Mayendit,” the report said.

It also disclosed that, among the 37 women and children abducted, some were subjected to sexual violence, including girls as young as 8-years-old and a 9-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death.

The report said the incidents amount to gross violations and abuses of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan.

“These violations were committed during clashes between joint Government Forces and affiliated armed militias/groups on one hand, and elements of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO (RM)) – loyal to First Vice-President Riek Machar,” the report disclosed.

Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, who also the Head of UNMISS, called on the government to investigate and hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.

“Human rights violations were committed with impunity,” he underscored.

“The government is duty-bound under international law to protect civilians, investigate allegations of human rights violations, and hold suspected perpetrators accountable in compliance with fair trial standards.”

The UN mentioned that the atrocities were committed between 11 February and 31 May 2022 based on 32 verification missions conducted by UNMISS in 3 Counties of Koch, Leer, and Mayendit in Unity state.

The government of South Sudan is yet to issue an official statement on the report.

In May, the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) published a report indicating that 320 women and girls were raped in Unity and Upper Nile states between February and April, a report which was later refuted by the parties.

Last month, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said women and girls in South Sudan continue to suffer from a “shadow crisis” imposed by recurrent conflicts and harmful social norms.

It stated that although the South Sudanese humanitarian crisis is characterized by conflicts and climatic changes, women and girls suffer additional consequences.

“We call them shadow crisis. It is a crisis of women and girls who are disproportionally affected,” said Sara Beysolow, Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan.