UN: South Sudan rights violations may constitute war crimes
© WikiMedia (Steve Evans)

UN: South Sudan rights violations may constitute war crimes

Violence by government and aligned forces in South Sudan may constitute war crimes [press release], according to a UN report published Tuesday.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] released the report [text, PDF], which details the atrocities occurring in the former State of Unity. This area has had a high military presence since 2014, resulting in opposition forces targeting civilians and leading to tens of thousands of deaths.

The report speaks of the latest incident, taking place from April 2018 to May 2018, where more than 120 women and children were the victims of sexually violent war crimes. During this time, approximately 31,000 people had been displaced due to the violence. In such instances, International Humanitarian Law is intended to protect innocent civilians.

Under this legal framework and in particular Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, SPLA and armed opposition groups are bound to distinguish at all times between civilians, including humanitarian relief personnel, and combatants and treat humanely persons taking no active part in hostilities. Shelling of civilians, unlawful killing, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, destruction of property, pillage, enforced disappearance, arbitrary deprivation of liberty and forced displacement are prohibited.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is demanding that the South Sudan government take action, and hold the three suspects described in the report accountable for the violations.