Akuot Chol / AFP / Getty Images
Human rights violations and human rights violations, which have become routine against civilians and children in the world's youngest country, can constitute war crimes, according to a new report by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in South Sudan, which sets out brutal acts of violence 2018.
Almost eight years after South Sudan gained its independence from its northern neighbor, Sudan, a civil war has engulfed the country in a humanitarian catastrophe.
"There is a confirmed pattern of how combatants attack villages, rob houses, take women as sexual slaves, and then burn homes – often with people inside," said the commission's chairman Yasmin Sooka in a statement on the report's findings, covering 2018. "Rape, rape, sexual mutilation, kidnapping, and sexual slavery, as well as murders, have become ubiquitous in South Sudan."
The report does not cite offenders, but says it These include many aspects of the conflict, including the army, rebels and armed groups, the National Security Service and two unidentified state governors.
In South Sudan, a ceasefire was declared in June 2018, followed by the signing of a peace deal, leading to a significant decline in fighting. However, the reports say that "hostilities are in place" and that the peace treaty did not address the catastrophic humanitarian situation in South Sudan. "Due in large part to the conflict, 60 percent of the southern Sudanese population is highly food-insecure, leaving 2.2 million refugees and 1.9 million internally displaced."
Majority of South Sudanese expelled. They are often alone – separated from their parents and especially susceptible to violence. Armed groups have recruited thousands of South Sudanese child soldiers, according to reports, while more children are being kidnapped and forced to fight.
Sometimes children are caught in the crossfire of ongoing military operations and sometimes they are attacked, the commission notes. It reports reports of notable brutality, including children being shot in the back while attempting to escape, and in one case, a baby was swung against a tree.
Sexual and gender-based violence is a perennial warfare tactic "by all parties to sow terror," the report said. Sexual violence against children includes the rape of girls over the age of seven. Boys and men also suffer, but their stories of sexual violence are under-represented due to social stigma.
"There is no doubt that these crimes are persistent because impunity in South Sudan is so ingrained that any kind of norm is broken, even the boys and the elderly are raped and killed," said Commissioner Andrew Clapham Wednesday at a press conference in Geneva.
The Commission states that this is the case to continue collecting evidence of human rights violations and other crimes, with a view to their application to justice mechanisms. There are three case studies documenting war crimes to be used for possible prosecution.
"We believe that through accountability and reconciliation, the South Sudanese will have an opportunity to reflect on the past and secure its future stability and prosperity," Clapham said.
. The report believes that South Sudan is almost entirely oil-dependent. The "increased militarization and securitization of the oil industry by government forces" working to protect their own economic interests in the oil sector risks "turning South Sudan into a police state based on fear, pensions and corruption." In addition, oil revenues are used to finance the fighting.
And while the report focuses on the past year, Clapham notes that in the state of Equatoria, intense fighting is taking place between government forces and a militant group. "A scorched earth policy" has led to fires in homes, civilians have been killed and women and girls raped. Thousands of civilians have been displaced in the recent dispute.