South Sudan: ‘horrendous’ human rights situation

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) on March 11 released a report  describing a multitude of atrocious human rights violations taking place in South Sudan in the context of the civil war. This report describes "in searing detail" violations including "a [g]overnment-operated 'scorched earth policy,' and deliberate targeting of civilians for killing, rape and pillage." The report places majority blame on state actors for the crimes, stating that some allied forces have been allowed to rape women in lieu of wages. The report focuses on the shocking scale of sexual violence in the nation, where in a five-month period last year, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reports of rape in just one of South Sudan's 10 states, oil-rich Unity. The report further states that the majority of casualties are the result of deliberate attacks on civilians and not actual combat operations.

The report concluded by recommending the Human Rights Council establish a dedicated mechanism to maintain accountability during the conflict. The report also calls on a new government to take "effective action to stop current violations and abuses of the rights of children,and to prevent their recurrence, and to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence." The report further recommends that the UN Security Council consider expanding sanctions imposed on South Sudan and referring the matter to the International Criminal Court.

The conflict in South Sudan has taken more than 50,000 lives and has displaced over one and a half million people. Human Rights Watch this week urged the African Union to establish a hybrid court to prosecute members of the South Sudan government for war crimes committed in the Western Equatoria region. Last month the United Nations Mission in South Sudan strongly condemned the violence that took place between Shilluk and Dinka youths at one of its "Protection of Civilians" sites in South Sudan. The OHCHR reported in January that "shocking crimes" have been committed in South Sudan.

From Jurist, March 11. Used with permission.