South Sudan army raped and then burned girls alive, says UN
Report by UN rights investigators accuses Sudan People’s Liberation Army of brutality and widespread abuses in civil war
June 30, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan’s army raped then burned girls alive inside their homes during a recent campaign notable for its “new brutality and intensity”, a UN rights report said on Tuesday.
Rights investigators from the UN mission in the Republic of South Sudan (Unmiss) warned of “widespread human rights abuses”, including gang-rape and torture in a report based on 115 victims and eyewitnesses from the northern state of Unity, scene of some of the heaviest recent fighting in the 18-month-long civil war.
The military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), launched a major offensive against rebel forces in April, with fierce fighting in Unity state’s northern Mayom district, once a key oil-producing area.
“Survivors of these attacks reported that SPLA and allied militias from Mayom county carried out a campaign against the local population that killed civilians, looted and destroyed villages and displaced over 100,000 people,” the UN said.
“Some of the most disturbing allegations compiled by Unmiss human rights officers focused on the abduction and sexual abuse of women and girls, some of whom were reportedly burned alive in their dwellings.”
Investigators said they had collected at least nine separate incidents where “women and girls were burned in tukuls (huts) after being gang-raped” as well as scores of cases of sexual violence, many the rape of mothers in front of their children.
The UN said it had tried to visit the sites of atrocities described by witnesses, but was denied access by the army
Photographs in the report, seen by AFP, show the burnt circles left after huts were set on fire, with all buildings apparently razed to the ground.
One witness described seeing “government forces gang-raping a lactating mother after tossing her baby aside”, the report read. Another described how troops made a women squeeze “burning-red coals” in her hands to reveal the whereabouts of rebels or cattle.
Rebel forces have also been accused of carrying out atrocities, including rape, killings and the recruitment of child soldiers.
There was no immediate response from the army, which has previously dismissed allegations of rights abuses. The UN said the report had been handed to government officials, who were yet to comment on its findings.
The UN said it had tried to visit the sites of the atrocities described by witnesses, but was routinely denied access by the army.
The Unmiss chief, Ellen Margrethe Loej, called for “unfettered access” to investigate the reported crimes. “Revealing the truth of what happened offers the best hope for ensuring accountability for such terrible violence and ending the cycle of impunity that allows these abuses to continue,” she said.
The civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
The upsurge in fighting “has not only been marked by allegations of killing, rape, abduction, looting, arson and displacement, but by a new brutality and intensity”, the UN statement added. “The scope and level of cruelty that has characterised the reports suggests a depth of antipathy that exceeds political differences.”
The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said in a report this month that the warring forces have carried out horrific crimes against children, including castration, rape and killings.
Four years after South Sudan won its independence, two-thirds of the country’s 12 million people need aid, according to the UN, and one-sixth have fled their homes.
Kiir and Machar met last weekend in the Kenyan capital Nairobi for the latest push to strike a peace deal, but rebel spokesman Mabior Garang said they “failed to bear any tangible results”.
At least seven ceasefires have been signed and broken during successive rounds of talks.
Even as the Nairobi talks were under way, a key regional capital in South Sudan reportedly changed hands once again as a renegade tribal warlord attacked the town of Malakal and declared his allegiance to Machar’s rebels.
A rebel statement said that former government general Johnson Olony – accused by aid agencies of forcibly recruiting hundreds of child soldiers – was in “full control” of the ruined town of Malakal, the state capital of Upper Nile, but the army dismissed the claim.
~ The Guardian Uk