A new report on South Sudan published Friday by the UN Human Rights Office describes “in searing detail” a multitude of horrendous human rights violations, including a Government-operated “scorched earth policy,” and deliberate targeting of civilians for killing, rape and pillage.
Although all parties to the conflict have committed patterns of serious and systematic violence against civilians since fighting broke out in December 2013, the report says state actors bore the greatest responsibility during 2015, given the weakening of opposition forces.
The scale of sexual violence is particularly shocking: in five months last year, from April to September 2015, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reports of rape in just one of South Sudan’s ten states, oil-rich Unity.
Credible sources indicate groups allied to the Government are being allowed to rape women in lieu of wages but opposition groups and criminal gangs have also been preying on women and girls.
The new report is the work of an assessment team sent by the High Commissioner to South Sudan from October 2015 to January 2016, in accordance with a resolution by the Human Rights Council in July 2015.
It focuses primarily on the worst affected Unity and Upper Nile States, as well as Western and Central Equatoria, where the conflict has spread.
While building on earlier reports of the African Union Commission of Inquiry and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the new reports places special emphasis on violations that took place during 2015.