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HRW: African nations should investigate the use of cluster bombs in South Sudan

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the governments of South Sudan and Uganda on Saturday to investigate new evidence that cluster bombs were used in the South Sudan conflict. HRW cited new evidence of cluster bombs, including intact unexploded submunitions or "bomblets," discovered by UN experts in the week of February 7 near the town of Bor, an area not known to be contaminated by similar remnants before December. The report notes the town of Bor has been a center of conflict [BBC report] in the previous two months, as control over the area changed hands between government forces, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], and the opposition forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar [BBC profile]. Last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] condemned [press release] the use of cluster bombs in the South Sudan conflict, but he did not indicate who the UN believes is responsible. HRW reports, "South Sudanese and Ugandan forces possess the air power to deliver air dropped cluster munitions, such as the RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh cluster bomb, while the opposition forces are not believed to possess the means necessary to deliver these bombs."

South Sudan [JURIST backgrounder] has been criticized for its human rights abuses since becoming an independent nation, and the domestic conflict is characterized by severe ethnic and sectarian violence. In an article published last week, JURIST guest columnist Kevin Cope of Georgetown University Law Center argues [JURIST op-ed] that constitutional structure may have a larger impact on the crisis in South Sudan than members of the international community realize. Last week HRW issued [JURIST report] an analysis outlining the prevalent trafficking and torture of Eritrean refugees for ransom by Sudanese and Egyptian individuals that has been occurring since 2010. In January HRW called for [JURIST report] an international commission of inquiry among leaders from South Sudan, the African Union [official website], and the UN to investigate targeted attacks on civilians based on ethnicity in South Sudan.

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