UN declares South Sudan human rights abuses ‘horrendous’

South Sudan is facing "one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world," according to the UN. Picture: AP

South Sudan is facing "one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world," according to the UN. Picture: AP

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A UN report describing sweeping crimes like children and the disabled being burned alive and fighters being allowed to rape women as payment shows South Sudan is facing “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”, the UN human rights chief said.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein lamented the crisis in the nearly five-year-old country has been largely overlooked by the international community, and his office said attacks against civilians, forced disappearances, rape and other violations could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN report released yesterday is the work of an assessment team deployed in South Sudan between October and January, and says “state actors” bear most responsibility for the crimes. It said Zeid recommends that the UN Security Council consider expanding sanctions already in place by imposing a “comprehensive arms embargo” on South Sudan and consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court if other judicial avenues fail.

In scorching detail, the report cited cases of parents being forced to watch their children being raped, and said investigators had received information that some armed militias affiliated with government forces “raided cattle, stole personal property, raped and abducted women and girls” as a type of payment.

“The quantity of rapes and gang-rapes described in the report must only be a snapshot of the real total,” Zeid said. “This is one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world, with massive use of rape as an instrument of terror and weapon of war, yet it has been more or less off the international radar.”

The human rights situation has “dramatically deteriorated” since South Sudan erupted into civil war in December 2013, the report said. Tens of thousands have died and at least two million have been displaced from their homes.

The 17-page report notes that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had in May 2014 pointed to “reasonable grounds” to consider that crimes against humanity had been committed in South Sudan.

Recommendations in previous reports to the UN’s Human Rights Council, “remain largely unimplemented,” it said.

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