Senior South Sudanese government officials and military officers are implicated in serious human rights violations, a UN inquiry said Monday.
The new report details how perpetrators of the most serious crimes, including widespread attacks against civilians and extrajudicial killings, remain unpunished.
Entitled “State of impunity: the persistence of violence and human rights violations in South Sudan,” the 114-page report of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan identifies Unity State Governor Joseph Monytuil and Lieutenant General Thoi Chany Reat of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces as among the individuals warranting criminal investigation in relation to State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings carried out in Mayom in August 2022.
Koch County Commissioner Gordon Koang is among the individuals identified in the report as being responsible for leading widespread attacks against civilians in Leer in February and April 2022.
The Commission’s findings also identify other individuals warranting further scrutiny or investigation in relation to human rights violations in Warrap State, Upper Nile State, northern parts of Jonglei State, and the Equatoria states.
The Commission says its report is based upon its investigations in six states of South Sudan and in the neighbouring region over the last 12 months.
“Over several years, our findings have consistently shown that impunity for serious crimes is a central driver of violence and misery faced by civilians in South Sudan,” said Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission. “So we have taken the step of naming more of the individuals who warrant criminal investigation and prosecution for their role in gross human rights violations,” she added.
Following the presentation of its 20-page report of main findings to the Human Rights Council on 7 March 2023, the Commission said the full report published today reflects in greater detail the Commission’s findings on emblematic situations and sites of human rights violations during 2022.
It pointed out that these situations include widespread attacks against civilians, including killings, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, as well as mass displacement, in multiple states.
The Commission said it found that while the government of South Sudan has announced special investigation committees into several situations, not one has led to any form of accountability and that government and military personnel implicated in these serious crimes remain in office.
“Once again, hundreds of South Sudanese shared with our Commission their experiences of being subjected to a range of human rights violations. Their suffering is immense. The State continues to fail in its duty to protect civilians, and to ensure accountability for violations. We call upon the authorities to properly investigate alleged perpetrators of serious crimes, no matter their rank or office, and to establish and strengthen the justice mechanisms for holding them accountable,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham.
The report further describes and analyses thematic human rights issues, including the use of children in the armed forces and in armed groups, conflict-related sexual violence, the political economy context of human rights violations, and the virtual disappearance of civic space in the country.
“Breaking the grip of impunity can only be achieved if the national authorities recommit and adhere to the values and promises in the peace agreement,” said Commissioner Barney Afako. “Political leaders are accountable to the people of South Sudan, and must therefore ensure that civic space for discussion is protected if the country’s first electoral and constitution-making processes are to be credible and positively impactful.”
Government and military spokespersons could not immediately be reached for comment.