The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) [official website] issued a report [text, PDF; press release] on Friday calling on the government of South Sudan to protect communities that are at risk of violence. The UNMISS report detailed the findings of a human rights investigation into the killing of 85 cattle herders in South Sudan's Jonglei state [AFP backgrounder], a majority of whom were women and children. The report found that the 85 victims were attacked by a group of armed men while taking their cattle to a grazing area. In the report, UNMISS called on the South Sudanese government to increase its protection of civilians and bring the perpetrators of these killings to justice:
[South Sudan should] take all necessary steps to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. A prime concern is the need to expand the long-term presence of security and rule of law institutions in areas most prone to violence in order to strengthen the protection of civilians. The widespread availability of weapons and ammunition in Jonglei State should also be reduced. Additionally, there is a need to strengthen appropriate mechanisms to determine the identities and the whereabouts of the people unaccounted for to facilitate their possible return to their families.The report also called for UNMISS to collaborate more closely with the South Sudan authorities to prevent violence.
South Sudan has repeatedly been criticized for its human rights abuses since becoming an independent nation. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] urged South Sudan to reverse an expulsion order [JURIST report] against a UNMISS staff member, claiming the government has given no good reason to support the order. Earlier in November Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] sent a letter [JURIST report] to a government official urging the country to abolish the death penalty and stating that its executions do not even meet the minimum international standards provided by law. After a visit to the country in May, Pillay noted concerns [JURIST report] with the country's detention procedures, impunity among security forces, discrimination against women and minorities and capital punishment practices. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] also criticized [JURIST report] the country's government in February 2012 for its failure to timely prosecute those responsible for an attack on ethnic minorities that killed thousands. South Sudan is still a new country, only officially being recognized as an independent nation [JURIST report] in 2011.