HRW Report: South Sudanese Leaders To Be Investigated For War Crimes!
August 8, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — The latest report, released by the Human Rights Watch, documents series of abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the two warring faction – The government and the SPLM/SPLA(opposition) – since December, 2013. The report has succinctly addressed the targeted killings of civilians and mass destruction of property in the country, mostly in the Greater Upper Nile report.
The excepts below are reproduced near verbatim to the original report. For public consumption, Nyamilepedia has extracted only two sections, the summary and crimes against humanity from the 100 pages report. A link to the original document is attached.
Excerpts From The Main Summary
The political contest between two leaders, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, a Dinka, and the former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, and those who have supported them and ongoing abuses perpetrated against civilians because of their ethnicity, has pitched the country’s two largest ethnic groups against each other. Government rhetoric has attempted to underplay the ethnic dimension, but with little success.
South Sudan’s new war began with gun battles in the capital Juba between Nuer soldiers and other government soldiers on the night of December 15, 2013 as months of escalating tensions between Riek Machar and Salva Kiir reached boiling point. A defining event in the conflict – a gruesome massacre of Nuer men in Juba by Dinka government security forces – took place within 24 hours of this first fighting. Many thousands of armed Nuer subsequently joined the Riek-led opposition principally to revenge the massacre and other killings in capital. Well-aware of this fury, the government has failed to admit the scale of the crimes committed or demonstrate political will to provide accountability. Instead President Salva Kiir and other authorities set up a confusing array of investigations, none of which have yielded a public report, hearing or prosecutions.
Tens of thousands of Nuer remain sheltering in United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases across the country, too afraid to return home. Government security forces have continued to harass and attack Nuer around these bases. In April 2014 armed civilians killed over 50 people in an attack on Nuer taking shelter in a UN base in Bor. The government has not attempted to find or prosecute the culprits. Not only are government forces responsible for ethnic-based killings, but by failing to take action on many fronts South Sudan’s government has effectively condoned attacks on Nuer civilians and on UN bases.
Opposition forces have also conducted brutal attacks in Bentiu, Malakal and Bor towns. In early January, opposition forces shot and killed remaining civilians in Bor over a two week period, looting and burning many homes. In Bentiu opposition forces were responsible for a horrific massacre in a mosque in April. In both Bentiu and Malakal, opposition forces attacked hospitals, killing patients and civilians who had taken refuge there. As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to ascertain, the opposition has not made any efforts to hold forces to account for these and other crimes.
Justice for serious crimes committed during this most recent conflict is a crucial component to breaking the cycle of impunity. South Sudan’s leaders, many of the same strongmen who commanded rebels in the former war, should pledge to end decades-old patterns of abuse without any accountability and immediately commit to fair, credible, and impartial investigation and prosecution of
crimes in accordance with international standards. Key international players, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union, UN Security Council members and the European Union, should insist on justice for serious crimes, in order to bring redress to victims and to help pave the way for greater respect for the rule of law and a durable peace over the long-term.
South Sudan’s judicial system does not currently have the capacity to prosecute crimes at this scale and neither the government nor the opposition forces have yet demonstrated any will to ensure real accountability for abusive forces. In this context, a purely domestic initiative to ensure justice for serious crimes seems highly unlikely. Trials could be pursued through a hybrid international-national judicial mechanism that includes relevant international support and participation – such as international investigators, prosecutors, and judges. Security permitting, this could have the advantages of accessibility to the local population and the prospect to help bolster the capacity of the domestic justice system. At the same time, the success of a hybrid approach will be highly dependent on willingness by domestic authorities to establish it and support it.
Trials by the International Criminal Court (ICC) could also be pursued. As South Sudan is not a state party to the ICC’s Rome Statute, the ICC could open an investigation only if the government of South Sudan submitted a declaration voluntarily accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction consistent with article 12(3) of the Rome Statue, or the UN Security Council referred the situation to the ICC.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council should urgently impose an arms embargo on South Sudan with the support of the AU and IGAD, the latter which is running the peace process in Addis Ababa.
Both the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council should initiate individual sanctions like asset bans
and travel freezes against those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
The UN Security Council should ensure the speedy deployment of promised additional peacekeepers to UNMISS. These forces should shore up protection of civilians around UN bases, where many civilians have been attacked, and in surrounding towns and also ensure human rights monitors are able to reach wider areas.
Crimes against Humanity
The term “crimes against humanity” includes a range of serious human rights abuses, including for example murder and torture, committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack by a government or organization predominantly against a civilian population(201). “Widespread” refers to the scale of the acts or number of victims (202). A “systematic” attack indicates “a pattern or methodical plan”(203).
In Juba, attacks by Dinka forces on Nuer civilians were both widespread and systematic and could amount to crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch documented widespread abuses in different parts of Juba, with very similar patterns of attacks, killings, looting and arrests. The number of security forces involved, and the fact that the abuses took place at the same time in different places—for example ethnic profiling and attacks on homes and round-ups of Nuer men in different neighborhoods as well as attacks and arrests of those who tried to move in Juba on December 16 and 17—suggests organization and planning.
The round ups of Nuer men in the Gudele police compound and nearby areas on the night of December 15 and all the following day suggests a plan was put in place. Dinka security forces did not shoot the 200 – 400 men they had gathered in the Gudele police building until around 8 p.m. and it is unlikely that an act of this magnitude would have taken place without orders. In at least five cases Nuer captives said that more senior Dinka soldiers intervened and stopped other soldiers from killing them or others with them, suggesting there was at least in so me places some form of direct command and control during the crackdown.
Culpability for crimes against humanity requires knowledge of the crime (204). That is, perpetrators must be aware that their actions formed part of the widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population (205). An investigation into crimes against humanity in Juba would have to address this element of the crime. Human Rights Watch research strongly indicates that several security organs participated in the fighting and attacks, and exerted effective control over Juba during the worst violence and violations. Identifying which security forces controlled which parts of Juba during the week of most intense fighting and killing is critical for determining criminal culpability for the gross human rights violations that occurred.
The Presidential Guard (PG), under the command of Maj. Gen. Marial Chanuong, was the dominant force around the GHQ in the southwest and in the center of the town around the presidency where many arrests, harassment and killings of Nuer took place (206). However, in other areas, Dinka from other security forces also played a role together with PG. For example members of SPLA military police, engineering corps and commando force also fought Nuer renegade soldiers on the night of December 15, and on December 16, in Juba’s northwest neighborhoods during fighting over the New Site arms store and in surrounding areas.
Members of all of these forces may have been involved in house-to-house searches and killings in this area on December 16 and 17. In Gudele a range of Dinka security forces including police arrested and held Nuer civilians in the Gudele police building. Under orders by the SPLA Chief of Staff, James Hoth Mai, a number of Dinka men from security forces were arrested and detained for killing civilians and looting in December 2013. These forces included soldiers but also members of the police force, national security and even the fire brigade (207).
Further investigation is needed to determine whether Salva Kiir, as the commander in charge, knew about all the actions of the various security forces or if he or other commanders or close allies gave specific orders to carry out attacks on Nuer civilians during the crackdown. Several military officials from different ethnicities have emphasized that instructions by Kiir’s closest supporters
may have been given to forces outside formal army command and control structures.
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