Juba — Amnesty International on Thursday accused China, Sudan and Ukraine of allegedly supplying military weapons to both South Sudanese Armed Forces (SPLA) and opposition groups, triggering scores of indiscriminate attacks in parts of South Sudan.
The organization, in its latest report, entitled South Sudan: Arms supplies fueling violations in forgotten conflict, examines the impact of responsible supplies and misuse of weapons, munitions and armaments that resulted in to civilian casualties and displacement of people in Mayom County, Unity State.
The report, released on 28 June, specifically points fingers at the SPLA and South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA); an armed opposition entity for killing and injuring innocent civilians, while their homes were either destroyed, or their occupants forced flee due to unselective attacks on civilian areas in 2010 and 2011.
Amnesty International, however, calls for a "strong" and "robust" treaty that halts irresponsible arms transfer to those likely to violate human rights and commit war crimes, through misuse of these arms. The call comes ahead of crucial Arms Trade Treaty negotiations to be graced by world governments at the United Nations headquarters in New York, next month.
"Governments must immediately stop supplying South Sudan with conventional arms which have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law until adequate systems of training and accountability are in place," said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa Director.
Amnesty International, in its report, also documents a series of human rights violations allegedly engineered by these three named countries believed to have supplied a range of weapons and military equipment.
For instance, it cites the Pristine 2010 Sudanese-manufactured ammunition allegedly used by the armed opposition; Chinese manufactured anti-vehicle mines freshly laid on Unity State's roads and Ukrainian-supplied T-72 main battle tanks allegedly by South Sudan armed forces to indiscriminately shell civilian settlements.
"There have been repeated incidents of civilians being killed or injured during fighting between the SPLA and the SSLA. Residents described a pattern of indiscriminate firing and shelling," the report reads in part, while adding that communities' alleged support for armed opposition could have justified the SPLA attacks on these civilians.
In 2009, according to Amnesty International, there was a concealed delivery of battle tanks from Ukraine to South Sudan, which reportedly involved transfers via Kenya and Uganda and included shipping companies from Germany and Ukraine, and UK and Isle of Man-registered shell companies.
Meanwhile, evidences gathered, including testimonies allegedly obtained from a former senior SSLA member indicates armed opposition groups received significant numbers of Kalashnikov-type assault rifles "new from the boxes," as well as ammunition, light and heavy machine-guns, B10 recoilless rifles plus mortars.
The conflict in Mayom County, Amnesty International said, underlines the need for governments to agree an effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adding that an effective ATT requires an injunction on transfer of arms likely to be used to commit serious human rights violations.
"The ATT talks are an unprecedented opportunity to stop arms getting into the hands of human rights abusers. A strong treaty could help prevent many other communities suffering from the horrific cost of the irresponsible arms trade, in the way the people of Mayom County have," said van der Borght.
Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson for the SPLA described the Amnesty report implicating the South Sudan army as "bias" and "unrealistic".
"The SPLA has the mandate to protect the people of South Sudan. There is no way it can use arms and weapons used meant to protect the population for attacking and displacing civilians. It does not happen anywhere," Aguer said.
The army, he added, remains skeptical about the evidence provided by Amnesty International especially on the weapon allegedly used by the SPLA, while refuting reports that the army turned on civilians due to their alleged support for armed opposition.