Authorities Fail to Curb Atrocities Committed Against Civilians by South Sudan Army and Police, Says Human Rights Group
(New York) – In a new report today, Amnesty International called on South Sudan to take immediate steps to end human rights violations including torture, shootings and sexual violence by security forces carrying out a civilian disarmament campaign in Jonglei State. The organization sent a team of investigators to some of the most remote villages in Pibor County in southeast Jonglei State, where scores of people described torture and abuse against civilians, including children as young as 18 months old.
The abuses by the South Sudan Army (known as the SPLA) and the South Sudan Police Service Auxiliary Force (SSPS) occurred during Operation Restore Peace, from March to August.
Amnesty International investigators in August and September interviewed victims and witnesses and reviewed medical evidence to document the human rights abuses in Thangajon village, Pibor town, Likuangole, Bee and Manyirang. Scores of people described acts of torture and abuse committed against civilians, including children as young as 18 months old, in addition to having their property looted and crops destroyed.
“Far from bringing security to the region, the SPLA and the police auxiliary forces have committed shocking human rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse,” said Audrey Gaughran, director for Africa at Amnesty International.
“Authorities have accepted that individuals are guilty of these violations and claim that it is not illustrative of the behavior of the SPLA as a whole, but this cannot be used to justify these violations or the failure to deal with them properly.”
Researchers spoke to a woman whose brother was shot dead in front of their home by someone believed to be an auxiliary police officer and to two men who were ambushed and shot by soldiers. None of the men who were shot had been armed.
Amnesty International also documented credible reports of rape and attempted rape by SPLA forces. One elderly woman explained how a soldier raped her daughter while other soldiers were beating her and her granddaughter with large sticks. Her granddaughter was left unconscious.
Civilians told Amnesty International that in many villages, soldiers had returned to the area two or three times to disarm the population. In Thangajon village, for example, soldiers came twice in July and once in August.
K.E, a mother of four, explained: “I was at home with five other women and our children. They asked to give us guns and we said we didn’t have guns and we were beaten with sticks. They took us to pools behind our homes. One soldier stepped on my neck to push my head down and one stepped on my back so I couldn’t jump out. My brother’s wife was unconscious.”
Amnesty International is calling on the South Sudanese authorities to carry out independent and impartial investigations into allegations of attacks against civilians by members of the armed forces and to monitor effectively the civilian disarmament process.
Amnesty International is aware of five soldiers detained in Pibor County for allegedly committing rape and murder. The lack of a judge advocate and civil prosecutor and judge in Pibor means that investigations and trials have not proceeded.
“Security forces committing these horrific acts of violence have to be fully held to account,” said Gaughran.
Amnesty International also calls upon the U.N. Mission in South Sudan to step up its efforts to protect civilians, including the deployment of peacekeepers in areas where there is significant potential for violations by the SPLA.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.