Government forces deliberately attacked women and children in the former Unity State between April and May, according to a report conducted by the UN Human Rights monitors.
The monitors found that between 16 April and 24 May, at least 232 civilians were killed and many more injured in attacks by government and aligned forces and armed youth on villages in opposition-controlled areas in Mayendit and Leer.
The report – which was issued today – says civilians were targeted, with the elderly, people with disabilities and very young children killed.
The 17-page document titled: “Indiscriminate attacks against civilians in southern unity”, also recorded the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with at least 120 women and girls raped or gang-raped, including children as young as four.
The human rights monitors say these acts constitute gross violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law – that may amount to war crimes.
“Some corpses seen by human rights monitors in villages in Northern Mayendit on 12 May exhibited bullet wounds in their backs,” the report states.
“According to information received, the elderly, sick and persons with disabilities who were unable to flee, were often burnt alive, as the attackers set ablaze their tukuls with lighters.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – called on the government to stop all attacks against civilians, launch investigations and hold the perpetrators accountable, including those who bear command responsibility.
“There must be consequences for the men who reportedly gang-raped a six-year-old child, who slit the throats of elderly villagers, who hanged women for resisting looting, and shot fleeing civilians in the swamps where they hid,” High Commissioner Zeid said.
The investigation has also identified three individuals who may bear the greatest responsibility for the violations committed.
“Those who ordered and facilitated these horrific crimes must be brought to account. The Government of South Sudan and the international community have the obligation to ensure justice,” she added.
When contacted by Eye Radio this evening, SPLA spokesperson Brigadier Lul Ruai said he would respond to the report after going through it.