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South Sudanese army killed 232 civilians in April-May attacks: UN report

August 12, 2018 (JUBA) - South Sudanese army and its allied militias have been accused of killing over two hundreds civilians, committing rape and burning villages in a series of attacks carried out in southern Unity region from 16 April to 24 May 2018.

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South Sudan government soldiers in the town of Koch, Unity state, South Sudan, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo AP/Jason Patinkin)

Based on the findings of an investigation carried out by the UNMISS Human Rights Division’s, (HRD), the peacekeeping mission and the UN human rights body OHCHR released a joint report documenting grave human right violation against civilians in Southern Unity State.

The report revealed that the SPLA and allied forces attacked at least 40 villages or settlements in the reporting period, during which 120 girls and women were raped or gang-raped.

"HRD also documented the killing of 232 civilians including 35 children, 50 women – including 25 who were killed by hanging, and 63 individuals comprising of children, elderly and persons with disabilities who were burned alive across these locations," said the report.

According to the report, the reason behind these attacks which took place after the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in December 2017 was to increase territories under Government control.

"Government interlocutors had repeatedly warned of their intent to recapture areas recently occupied by SPLA-IO (Riek Machar) forces, and to open supply route between Bentiu and the SPLA position in Leer," stressed the report.

The report further pointed out that the nature of the operation indicates that the purpose of the attacks was not only to drive out the SPLA-Io fighters but also to forcefully displace civilians.

UNMISS and aid groups estimate that 1,995 people including 1,350 children, were forcibly displaced to the UN protection site in Leer, while 3,415 individuals arrived at the Bentiu Protection of Civilian site. Also, around 8,000 displaced civilians are sheltering in the bush and swamps south-east of Leer, in addition to some 18,000 displaced in Mayendit town.

The UNMISS human rights monitors identified three officials that may bear the greatest responsibility for the gross violations committed during that period.

The Gany County commissioner, one SPLA-IO (Taban Deng) commander (Lieutenant General) and one SPLA commander (colonel) from the SPLA Division IV in Bentiu, are cited in the report as the authorities had effective command and control of operations of the areas of attacks.