South Sudan’s military and security forces are committing egregious human rights violations in the eastern part of the country reported human rights group Amnesty International. Soldiers are torturing, raping, and arbitrarily killing civilians, said Amnesty.
The report suggests that there is much to do in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, which broke away from Sudan just over a year ago. The country is racked with rampant poverty and tribal clashes. According to Amnesty, severe human rights violations started in March when the South Sudanese government began a disarmament campaign in Jonglei State; under Operation Restore Peace, soldiers were deployed to collect illegal arms from civilians.
Instead of promoting security in restive Jonglei, the South Sudanese army and security forces “have committed shocking human rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse,” said Amnesty Africa Director Audrey Gaughran, according to a press release.
The state has been mired in tribal fighting since August 2011. Fighting flared in early 2012 when members of the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups clashed over cattle raids and water sources leaving hundreds dead.
In recent days, the militia leader and member of the minority Murle tribe David Yau Yau has led an insurgency against the army in Jonglei, forcing aid agencies and other nongovernment organizations to leave the area. Yau Yau said in an announcement made from a shortwave radio station that his militia is, among other things, defending civilians against the army’s disarmament mandate, according to Arab News.
The government-mandated operation was designed to ensure peace following the tribal fighting and to collect weapons that were left over from the decades-long civil war with Sudan. Upward of 15,000 security forces were deployed to the state, according to the Sudan Tribune.
Researchers with Amnesty went to Pibor, a remote area of Jonglei and one of the hardest-hit areas during the tribal clashes. They found that soldiers in Pibor tortured and abused numerous civilians—children as young as 18 months old were not spared either.
A mother of four, calling herself K.E., told Amnesty in one of many testimonials the group received: “I was at home with five other women and our children. They asked us to give 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.”
Another woman said security forces shot and killed her unarmed brother in front of their home. They shot two other unarmed men to death, she said. Other civilians described acts of rape committed by South Sudanese soldiers.
“Authorities have accepted that individuals are guilty of these violations and claim that it is not illustrative of the behavior of the [South Sudanese army] as a whole, but this cannot be used to justify these violations or the failure to deal with them properly,” Gaughran said.
Amnesty called on the United Nations mission in the country to ensure that civilians are protected in the state and other areas where there are potential violations by the army. It also urged the South Sudanese government to conduct an investigation into the attacks.
“Security forces committing these horrific acts of violence have to be fully held to account,” added Gaughran.
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