UN probe says South Sudan attacks 'nadir' of conflict marked by abuses, rights violations

9 January 2015

The Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) issued a report today saying there are reasonable grounds to believe that at least 353 civilians were murdered and another 250 wounded in attacks in the capitals of Unity state and Jonglei state between 15 April and 17 April last year.

The Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) issued a report today saying there are reasonable grounds to believe that at least 353 civilians were murdered and another 250 wounded in attacks in the capitals of Unity state and Jonglei state between 15 April and 17 April last year.

Having collected and analysed physical evidence and interviewed 142 sources, the report has found that the attacks in the towns of Bentiu and Bor involved the deliberate targeting of victims on the basis of their ethnicity, nationality or perceived support for one of the parties to the conflict, a press statement from the Mission said.

“In both Bentiu and Bor, attacks took place against protected objects – a hospital, a mosque, and a United Nations base – which may amount to war crimes,” said the report. “Although the conflict has been marked throughout by gross abuses and violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, these two events seemed to represent the nadir of the conflict.”

The attack in Bentiu, capital of Unity State, took place after opposition forces retook control of the town from Government troops. The report says that at least 287 civilians – mainly Sudanese traders and their families who were targeted on the basis of their Darfuri origins – were killed at a mosque before a further 19 civilians were killed at the Bentiu Civil Hospital.

Two days later, an UNMISS civilian protection site outside the Jonglei state capital of Bor was attacked by a mob of armed men demanding the expulsion of all youths of Nuer ethnicity. After forcibly entering the protection site, the mob went on a rampage of killing, looting and abductions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), killing at least 47 people whose names appear in report.

“UNMISS strongly condemns the continued killing and displacement of civilians on the basis of their ethnic identity nearly nine months after the events of April 2014,” said Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan. “This risks an even greater polarization of the country along ethnic lines with potentially serious repercussions for the state of human rights and the prospects for reconciliation.”

Nearly nine months after the attacks took place, no perpetrator has been held accountable by either the Government of the Republic of South Sudan or the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition and the report says that few accountability measures have been taken in response to the incidents.

The Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the UNMISS report during a briefing in Geneva today, adding his voice to those concerned by the response to the attacks.

“Accountability is a big issue. There has been no accountability for the mass atrocities, human rights violations and abuses that have caused the death of tens of thousands of people in South Sudan,” said Robert Colville. “Nearly nine months after the attacks in Bentiu and Bor took place, no perpetrator has been held accountable by either the Government of South Sudan or the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition for the two large-scale killings described in the report.”

Updated: 10.42 a.m.

 

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