UN experts accuse senior South Sudan officials of rights abuses

New UN report says officials should face criminal investigation and prosecution for their part in abuses against civilians.

Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile State
South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, but collapsed into a civil war two years later [File: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]

A United Nations-backed panel of investigators have alleged in a new report that several officials in South Sudan have perpetrated serious human rights violations and should be held accountable for their crimes.

Top government and military leaders were identified on Monday in a new report by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan that details state responsibility for widespread murder, rape and sexual slavery.

The commission – which conducted a year-long investigation across six states in South Sudan, and released a partial summary of its findings in March – said none of those named in the final report had faced any accountability for their crimes.

“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,” Yasmin Sooka, commission chair, said.

“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.”

The report identifies Joseph Monytuil, governor of Unity State, along with Lieutenant General Thoi Chany Reat of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, in relation to state-sanctioned killings in Mayom County in August 2022.

Four captured rebel officers were summarily executed by government troops in killings that were captured on video and shared widely. Three were killed by firing squad and a fourth was burned alive in a hut.

The report also names Gordon Koang, the county commissioner of Koch, who was accused of leading horrific attacks on civilians in neighbouring Leer County between February and April 2022.

Other top-ranking officials in Warrap, Upper Nile, Jonglei and the Equatoria states were identified as warranting further scrutiny or investigation for their role in various abuses.

“The Commission 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,” the panel said in a statement.

“Government and military personnel implicated in these serious crimes remain in office.”

The officials were not immediately available for comment, The Associated Press news agency said.

The government has accused the commission of interfering in its national affairs and rejected past findings from the three-member panel.

South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, but collapsed into a civil war two years later that devastated the world’s newest country.

Close to 400,000 people died before a peace deal was signed in 2018, but core tenets of the agreement remain unfulfilled, and the country is riven by armed violence.

A promised tribunal led by the African Union to prosecute offenders and deliver justice for victims of war crimes has never eventuated.

Source: News Agencies