Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International says South Sudan government forces are responsible for deliberately killing civilians, raping women and girls and looting property during July clashes in Juba.
The group has since called for an arms embargo on the war-torn country.
“South Sudanese government troops killed men from the Nuer ethnic group, raped women and girls, and carried out a massive campaign of pillage,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
“These attacks by government forces are further proof of the urgent need to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, with the aim of stopping the flow of weapons, and establish an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. States should not be profiting off weapons that are being used to kill civilians,” the group says.
The group released a report ahead of a field mission to South Sudan by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), scheduled to take place between 28 and 30 October which details the violent atrocities reportedly committed by South Sudan army during clashes .
Amnesty International is calling on the AUPSC to look into the July violence during its visit, and to take steps to ensure the establishment of an independent hybrid court able to investigate and prosecute these and other crimes.
Titled “We did not believe we would survive”: Killings, rape and looting in Juba, the report highlights the crimes under international law committed by government forces, as well as the UN’s disappointing and inadequate response.
The report is based on field research conducted by Amnesty International in July, August and September 2016, it details deliberate killings, indiscriminate attacks, rapes and massive looting carried out by South Sudanese forces.
Possible human shields
The report also describes abuses by armed opposition forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO). It details how opposition fighters entered the protection of civilians sites at the UN base in the Jebel neighborhood several times on 10 and 11 July, at least once in large numbers.
It is not clear whether in doing so the fighters intended to shield themselves from attack or impede military operations – which would constitute the war crime of using human shields—but regardless of their intention, such maneuvers endangered thousands of civilians sheltering in the sites.
Another problem was the location of the SPLA-IO base in the Jebel neighbourhood adjacent to the protection of civilians site, which placed civilians in proximity to clashes between government and opposition troops.