The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says it is “deeply disturbed” by reports of widespread sexual violence including rape and gang rape, of women and young girls, by soldiers in uniform, unidentified armed groups and men in plainclothes.
“These incidents have been reported from a number of locations, including areas in the vicinity of the Protection of Civilians sites near the UN House, and also in other neighbourhoods of Juba,” says a statement released by UNMISS yesterday evening.
#SouthSudan – “The United Nations condemns unequivocally these actions, and reminds all combatants and parties to the...Posted by theniles.org on Monday, 1 August 2016
Fighting erupted in Juba last month as President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar met at the presidential palace commonly known as J1. An estimated 300 people, mainly soldiers, were killed during several days of fighting – including a photojournalist attached to the presidency who was killed by crossfire.
“These acts have been committed since the start of the fighting which erupted in Juba on Friday July 8, and despite calls to all parties to cease this kind of inhumane behaviour, the United Nations continues to receive reports of their occurrence,” the statement says.
The statement also says that UNMISS Human Rights have documented at least 100 separate cases of sexual violence and rape against unarmed civilians, including gang rapes and sexual abuse of minors since the outbreak of conflict on July 8. The documentation will be sent to the United Nations Secretary-General and other international human rights bodies.
The United Nations says it condemns unequivocally these actions, and reminds all combatants and parties to the conflict, their commanders, and responsible leaders, that these acts constitute grave violations of international human rights law and may be regarded as war crimes as well as crimes against humanity.
The statement also acknowledges the military leadership’s commitment to bring alleged perpetrators to account for their actions and it will continue its engagement to see that these commitments are upheld.
SPLA denies being notified
SPLA spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang says however that the army hasn’t received an official statement from the UN body. “I must admit to you that up to this particular point in time we have not received any official complaint from anybody, whether from any of the alleged victims, or a body that is representing the alleged victims,” Ruai Koang says.
Ruai Koang acknowledges that he has heard about human rights abuses. “We have received cases from other affected individuals. We have received cases from some SPLA soldiers accusing their own colleagues. We have received cases about looting, but we have not received any official letter from UNMISS,” he says.
Ruai Koang says the army will respond once officially notified with evidences from UNMISS.
He also says the army has set up a court martial to try soldiers that are accused of committing crimes. He says 14 soldiers are currently in the military detention accused of crimes such as murder, looting and random shooting.
#SouthSudan | #Juba – Crimes committed by military persons to be tried by a general court martial, following “persistent...Posted by theniles.org on Wednesday, 27 July 2016
More than 30,000 people currently seek refuge in Juba’s UNMISS bases, raising the number that had fallen to about 170,000 to 200,000 people protected by the UNMISS since fighting first erupted in 2013.
“In order to improve the security of vulnerable communities and groups, such as women and children, residing in the UNMISS Protection of Civilians sites, UNMISS has intensified its patrols in and around the protection sites, as well as in the wider Juba city area,” the statement says.
In order to help mitigate the situation, UNMISS says it is working with community leaders as well as other stakeholders to coordinate peacekeeper escorts of women and young girls leaving protection sites to collect food and non-food items at scheduled times of the day.
The UN body says it takes allegations that peacekeepers may not have rendered aid to civilians in distress very serious. “UNMISS has reinforced the message to all peacekeepers that if these incidents of abuse should be committed in areas for which they have security responsibility, then they have an individual and joint duty to act, to prevent harm to innocent civilians,” reads the statement.
There have been calls by the AU and IGAD to deploy regional troops to protect civilians, but the government rejects additional soldiers on its soil.
UNFPA is providing psycho-social support to people who have suffered from sexual violence. Training sessions on clinical management of rape victims are conducted to ensure uninterrupted professional delivery of services.