UN indexes 3 Riek Machar’s commanders over war crimes

South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar. Photo : Reuters

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADV) – A UN report has identified three of Riek Marchar’s SPLA-IO commanders whose actions could amount to war crimes, sources said Thursday.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Human Rights Division explained that the three commanders allegedly had effective command and control of the forces that committed those war crimes.

The report said the crimes include unlawful killings and destruction of civilian property, particularly around Nagero in May 2018.

Further to that, the report quoted corroborated victim and witness accounts indicate that women and girls as young as 12, abducted by opposition forces, were paraded and lined up for commanders to choose as “wives”.

“Those women or girls who were not chosen were left for other fighters who subjected them to repeated rapes while abducted young men and boys were forced to be fighters or used as porters,” the UNMISS and the UN Human Rights Office said.

“Most of the abducted civilians are, as far as we know, still being held captive. The SPLA-IO (RM) must immediately release them, first and foremost the children,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The report documented the immense suffering of civilians in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan where 900 people were abducted and 24,000 forced to flee their homes during a surge in violence between April and August.

In April 2018, the report said after several months of relative calm, the pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO (RM)) intensified attacks against villages and targeted civilians in Gbudue and Tambura.

The report explained that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)’s offensives to dislodge SPLA-IO (RM) forces also resulted in harm to civilians, as these operations failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The report documented SPLA-IO (RM) attacks on at least 28 villages, a settlement of internally displaced persons and a refugee camp, in Gbudue and Tambura. Serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law occurred during these attacks, including unlawful killings, abduction, rape, sexual slavery, forced recruitment, and destruction of property.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said it was disappointing that the spike in violence took place while warring parties were negotiating a new peace agreement and despite positive reconciliation efforts in the affected community at the time.

As part of the revitalized peace process, it is also essential that the Government of South Sudan acts to hold the perpetrators of the abuses and violations detailed in this report to account.

A new peace agreement has been signed which puts the onus and responsibility on the warring parties to ensure that no atrocities are committed in future.

UNMISS will be closely monitoring any potential violations and abuses, said David Shearer.

© Bur-csa – N.A / A.H / From our regional correspondent Tamba Jean-Matthew III – African Daily Voice (ADV)