South Sudan: Human rights violations in Unity state committed with ‘impunity’

Women return from collecting firewood in South Sudan's Unity State, which has seen alarming levels of gender-based violence amid mounting conflict and spiralling climate catastrophes.
©UNFPA South Sudan
Women return from collecting firewood in South Sudan's Unity State, which has seen alarming levels of gender-based violence amid mounting conflict and spiralling climate catastrophes.

South Sudan: Human rights violations in Unity state committed with ‘impunity’

Peace and Security

As fighting continues in South Sudan, a new UN report released on Tuesday documents 173 civilian deaths over a four-month period along with widespread human rights violations committed without repercussion.

Published jointly by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the document reports gross abuses of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Unity state.

Verified violations

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 former Vice-President Riek Machar – on the other.

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The report, which covers the period between 11 February and 31 May, is based on 32 verification missions conducted by UNMISS in the three counties of Koch, Leer, and Mayendit as well as in neighboring areas.

The violence and incursions have displaced approximately 44,000 civilians from at least 26 villages.

In addition to those killed, hostilities in southern Unity State have affected at least 28 villages and settlements — with approximately 12 injured, and 37 women and children abducted.

Horrific sexual assaults

Many abductees were subjected to sexual violence, including girls as young as eight-years-old.

A total of 131 cases of rape and gang rape have been documented, including the case of one nine-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death.

UNMISS identified joint Government forces and allied militias/groups reportedly operating under the command of officials of Koch and Mayendit counties as the main perpetrators of the human rights violations and abuses.

The SPLM/A-IO (RM) also perpetrated attacks in Mirmir Payam, Koch County.

The Secretary-General’s Head of Mission, Nicholas Haysom, said that human rights violations were committed with impunity: “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,” he stated.

Report on attacks on civilians in southern Unity State, South Sudan.
UNMISS/OHCHR
Report on attacks on civilians in southern Unity State, South Sudan.