Sudan: SPLA Criticises Jonglei Human Rights Reports Despite Dismissing Over 30 Soldiers

Photo: Hannah McNeish/IRIN
Displaced by conflict (file photo): The security forces are being accused of torture, shootings and sexual violence.

Juba — The commander of South Sudan army (SPLA) forces in Jonglei State has criticised a recently released report by the Human Rights Watch report that blames soldiers for rape, torture and killing of civilians in Pibor county.

Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol told Radio Miraya in an interview broadcast on Wednesday that "we [SPLA] are protecting the human rights of people because this is what our constitution tell us." Gen. Kuol told the UN sponsored radio that the Human Rights Watch findings "are not credible".

However, he said more than thirty soldiers have being dismissed from the army since the disarmament began in March 2012, for failing to observe set of military rules. "If a soldier fails [to respect human rights], then his commander arrests him and this is what I am doing," said Gen. Kuol.

The General said that "everybody in Jonglei" knew the actions he was taking. He said that Human Rights Watch "don't tell the truth" and described them as "not people who are credible."

Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to President Salva Kiir listing the violations its research team had recorded between July 19-26 this year urging him to take action to ensure that victims received justice.

The last week report, conducted and published by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, says the Murle tribe in Jonglei State were the victims of rape, torture and killing by some of the strong 15,000 forces carrying out the disarmament in Jonglei.

Kiir launched the ongoing "Operation Restore Peace" in Jonglei in March following violent tribal attacks between the Nuer Lou and Murle tribes, which killed hundreds and affected over 100,000 people. When launching the process Kiir warned soldiers against committing crimes and urged them to run a responsible operation, to be disciplined and to avoid tribalism.

A report by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), also released last week, found "serious human rights violations" allegedly committed by "undisciplined" soldiers who are part of the contingents participating in the disarmament programme in Jonglei.

Between 15 July and 20 August, the Mission said that the SPLA soldiers allegedly killed one person. It further said there are "27 allegations of torture or ill-treatment, such as beatings, and simulated drowning in some cases, 12 rapes, six attempted rapes and eight abductions."

The Mission underscored that the victims are generally women and in some cases children and the "Communities in Pibor County" are worried about the vulnerability of the civilians there. The UN report highlighted the significant efforts of the South Sudanese army to calm tensions and to protect civilians after the inter-communal violence which claimed the lives of hundreds there.

However, cases of rape and torture in Bor county during the earlier stages of disarmament as well as the killing of armed civilians in Nyirol county in Lou Nuer areas when the army clashed with self-proclaimed prophet Dak Kueth in March were not included.

In the UN radio interview, Gen. Kuol said military courts had been established in Boma, Pibor, Waat, Canal and Bor to look into cases of human rights violations. He said at least thirty soldiers are serving sentences ranging from two to seven years in Bor Prison after being convicted and dismissed from the army, adding that soldiers are only sent to civilian prison after being relieved of their army duties.

Four soldiers accused of rape are being detained in Pibor prison, Gen. Kuol says.

The UNMISS report highlighted the significant efforts of the South Sudanese army to calm tensions and to protect civilians after the inter-communal violence which claimed hundreds of lives. The peacekeeping mission said the SPLA had ordered to probe the alleged human right violations and to recall those who are involved in criminal incidents.

The peacekeeping mission said the SPLA had ordered to probe the alleged human right violations and to recall those who are involved in criminal incidents. Further the South Sudanese army, according to UNMISS, have taken some steps "to strengthen investigations, with some arrests in recent rape cases and some older cases going to trial."

Human Rights Watch said it collected accounts of victims and witnesses from four villages in Pibor county - of Manyirang, Tangajon, Be, and Likuangole- where SPLA soldiers shot at civilians, ill-treated them by beating, tying them with rope, and submerging their heads in water to extract information about the location of weapons.

Noth UNMISS and HRW called on the South Sudanese authorities to hold accountable those who committed these abuses against civilians stressing such violations undermine the confidence and collaboration of local communities in the disarmament process.

SPLA DENIES TRIBALISM ALLEGATION

South Sudan's Army (SPLA) on Tuesday denied allegations that disarmament process in Jonglei State has targeted specific communities, specifically members of Murle tribe of Pibor County. Pibor is inhabited mainly by the Murle, Kachipo and Jie tribes but the county is ethnically diverse compared to other counties in Jonglei State.

"Generally there is a feeling with local population that the disarmament process has been concentrated in specific areas. It is actually generating feelings and fears that it is targeting certain tribes", Jody Joshua, a member of Murle Youth Council in Juba told Sudan Tribune.

He claimed that disarmament exercise by the operation was concentrating operation only in areas under Greater Pibor County.

However, General Peter Biar Mading, commissioner of police in Jonglei dismissed the reports, describing them as divisive and unfounded allegations by enemies of peace to destabilize the area.

"There is nothing like that. From where do you get such information? These are baseless and unfounded allegation. The disarmament exercise is not targeting any tribe", General Mading said on Tuesday

The senior police officer said the exercise was only targeting those holding illicit weapons to engage in cattle raiding, women and child abduction. Disarmament, he said, has been peaceful and voluntarily because state authorities have carried out a campaign to sensitize, educate people about the process since it begun.

He explained that the reason for using the army to carry out the exercise was because community members claimed most of the firearms had been given by some members of their communities in police, fire brigade, prison services or the wildlife police units.

He said the army will exhaust all means available to recover guns from the civilians.

Mading said the army had created buffer zones. "There are some areas where the Murle, Dinka and Nuer do not cross. These are red line places. They have tried to cross but army was able to block and asked them to voluntarily give them weapons, he said explaining the mission of the army was to make Jonglei free from illegal firearms scattered into the hands civil population during the civil war.

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