South Sudan: UN Backs Amnesty International Calls for Probe Into Human Right Violations

Juba — The United Nations in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday expressed full support for recent calls by Amnesty International for an independent and impartial investigations into allegations of attacks against civilians by the country's security forces during its disarmament exercise.

The campaign group, in report released on Wednesday, accused South Sudan army (SPLA) and Police forces of allegedly shooting and raping civilians, during the widespread disarmament carried out in its most populous Jonglei state.

The alleged abuses, the report notes, reportedly took place during the Operation Restore Peace campaign, which was instigated by the government in March 2012 to recover guns and ammunitions among the population.

Most of those interviewed, according to the document, described "acts of torture and abuse committed against civilians, including children as young as 18 months old, in addition to having their property looted and crops destroyed."

"Far from bringing security to the region, the SPLA and the police auxiliary forces have committed shocking human rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse," said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's Africa Director.

"Authorities have accepted that individuals are guilty of these violations and claim that it is not illustrative of the behaviour of the SPLA as a whole, but this cannot be used to justify these violations or the failure to deal with them properly," she added.

The group, in one of its recommendation, called upon UNMISS to step up its efforts to protect civilians, including by deploying peacekeepers in areas where there is significant potential for violations by the SPLA.

Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon said UNMISS notes with concern the recommendations made by Amnesty International in its report and remains in full support.

"On various occasions, UNMISS has expressed concerns over the recent increase in serious human rights violations allegedly committed by some undisciplined elements within the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) in Pibor County, and has called on all South Sudanese institutions and actors engaged in stabilizing Jonglei state to take immediate action to safeguard recent gains in the peace process, stem human rights violations in Pibor County and hold perpetrators to account," Nesirky said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

UNMISS, he emphasized, remains committed in working with all partners, government and the international community to support the implementation of the resolutions agreed upon during the May 2012 All Jonglei Peace Conference.

The much-hyped peace conference, which was initiated by religious leaders with support from the UN, seeks to bring stability and lasting peace to the state and South Sudan in general.

South Sudanese officials, however, dismissed the Amnesty International report, which came barely a month after the UNMISS released a similar findings, which also pinned the country's security forces of allegedly killing, raping and torturing civilian in Jonglei.

In an interview with Sudan Tribune, Lt. Kuol Deim Kuol, the SPLA officer responsible for the disarmament Jonglei describes the report as a "one sided" finding that "neglected the SPLA side of the story."

"These allegations labeled against the SPLA are not accurate. The allegations are not properly investigated", he said.

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