[JURIST] Both sides in the South Sudan conflict are committing gross human rights violations, according to a UN report [text, PDF] released Thursday. The UN Mission in South Sudan's (UNMISS) [official website] issued the report after compiling evidence from interviews with more than 900 civilians who were victims of and witnesses to violence after being directly targeted based on ethnic lines. The UN has reported that Sudanese civilians were victims to rape, mass killings and torture as a result of recent political conflicts. Recent violence has been ignited after disputes over the ethnic backgrounds of President Salva Kiir [BBC profile] and former vice president Riek Machar. UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson stated that "[a]ccountability is critical to end the legacy of impunity in South Sudan and prevent similar atrocities in the future" and urged "a credible peace process that will lead to national healing and reconciliation." The UNMISS report calls for a transparent and independent investigation consistent with international standards to bring justice to the perpetrators of such inhumane violations.
South Sudan [JURIST backgrounder] has been criticized for its human rights abuses since becoming an independent nation, and the recent domestic conflict has been characterized by severe ethnic and sectarian violence. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visited the country recently following a rebel attack [JURIST report] on an oil hub that killed hundreds and a separate assault by rivals on a UN base. Amnesty International on Thursday released a report [JURIST report] detailing the crimes against humanity that have been fueled by South Sudan's conflict. In an article published in February, 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. In January Human Rights Watch called for [JURIST report] an international commission of inquiry among leaders from South Sudan, the African Union and the UN to investigate targeted attacks on civilians based on ethnicity in South Sudan.