20, October 2018
A new UN report says armed men from opposition forces in South Sudan abducted women and girls, as young as 12 years, for commanders to take them as “wives”.
The report said those who were chosen – most of them still being held captive – were repeatedly being raped and abused by other military figures.
The report, the latest by the UN and others that have described civilians being raped, shot, hung, tortured and burned, estimated that 900 people were kidnapped and 24,000 displaced between April and August.
South Sudan, the youngest country in Africa, has been gripped by a bloody civil war since December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and current rebel leader of plotting a coup.
The latest report, which is conducted based on victim and witness accounts, provides new details on abduction of women and girls by opposition forces.
It explains that women and girls were paraded and lined up for commanders to choose as “wives.”
The report has documented attacks on at least 28 villages, a settlement of internally displaced people and a refugee camp, during which the militants carried out serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.
The head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said most of the abducted civilians are still being held captive. Michelle Bachelet called on the armed opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) to “immediately release them, first and foremost the children.”
“As part of the revitalized peace process, it is also essential that the Government of South Sudan acts to hold the perpetrators of the abuses and violations detailed in this report to account,” she added.
They also abducted young men and boys, forcing them to be fighters, according to the report.
The surge in violence and abuses, according to the report, occurred despite the latest UN peace deal that returned Machar once again to his post as deputy to the president.
The human rights division of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country has identified three opposition commanders “who allegedly had effective command and control of the forces committing these abuses, which may amount to war crimes,” it said.
South Sudan is also the world’s most dangerous country for aid workers. A researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, Nyagoah Pur, described the abuses to the Associated Press as “horrendous.”
Pur said that the abuses reported by the UN “stress the devastating impact that the continued impunity by forces has had on civilians, especially women and girls.”
She also called for the speedy establishment of a long-promised hybrid court in the country to prosecute abuses.
South Sudan plunged into civil war two years after it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. The brutal conflict has left nearly 400,000 people dead and millions of others displaced, a report said last month.