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UN senior officials call on South Sudan to punish perpetrators of sexual violence

Displaced civilians from five villages around Kuda Payam, 72 klm west of Juba, after killing of 14 people following attacks by pastoral communities, in their area on 15 August 2018 (UNMISS Photo)

December 3, 2018 (JUBA) - In an unprecedented outcry, UN senior officials Monday condemned the recent sexual attacks near Bentinu and called to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crime.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, and Natalia Kanem, United Nations Population Fund Executive Director echoed the statement of the UNMISS chief condemning these "abhorrent attacks".

They were reacting to the cases of collective rape of women and girls by government forces along roads near Nhialdu and Guit to Bentiu in Northern Liech State between 19 and 29 November 2018.

"I condemn the horrific attacks including rape and beatings against over 150 women and girls in South Sudan," said Lacroix in a tweet posted on Monday evening.

"(The) government needs to investigate and assure accountability. UNMISS sent patrols, human rights teams and is implementing preventive measures," he further said.

Despite the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, different reports mention the need to carry out campaigns to raise awareness among local commanders and troops particularly in the northern and southern parts of the country.

For their part, the other four senior officials issued a joint statement calling on "the relevant authorities to publicly denounce the attacks and ensure that those responsible for these crimes face justice".

The Northern Liech Minister of Information rejected the report of Médecins Sans Frontihères (MSF) on the sexual assaults and termed it as "unequivocally false".

Minister Lam Tungwar said that no incident whether in government or rebel-held areas has been reported. Further, he added that security service could not confirm the report of the humanitarian group.

The rape was first reported by MSF on Friday and confirmed by UNMISS on Saturday. In addition, UNMISS and CTSAMVM said in separate statements they have opened an investigation into the reports of sexual violence.

The UN officials pointed that Humanitarian workers are providing critical, life-saving assistance and services to the survivors of the attacks.

They called on the South Sudanese authorities to ensure the needed protection and safety of both civilians and aid workers, and make certain that further such horrendous violations are prevented.