UN envoy offers solution to crisis

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights says the onslaught will stop when the perpetrators face the consequences for their actions.

Makeshift graves are seen at the UN House for internally displaced persons in Juba on July 22, 2016

Gilmour, after a four-day visit to the conflict-torn country, said those committing atrocities against innocent civilians in the country, must be held accountable, according to a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday.

“This is a war that has been waged against the men, women and children of South Sudan.

“And the only way of ending this onslaught, will be when the perpetrators face consequences for what they are doing.

“Although this is the fourth time I’ve been in South Sudan since 2011, I wasn’t prepared for the shocking devastation I witnessed in Malakal and even more by the clear pattern of systematic human rights violations and abuses suffered by the population.

“It is utterly abhorrent that women in this area have to choose between getting raped or getting a livelihood.

“But this seems the brutal reality of what South Sudan has become,” the UN human rights official regretted.

Gilmour said he travelled to Malakal, where he received further information concerning the suffering of the civilian population in the area.

He regretted that women had been frequently subjected to rape, both by non-government militias and Government forces known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), on their route to the market in Malakal town.

“Rape and gang rape is present in the testimonies of numerous women in the area, though this was categorically denied by the SPLA Division Commander,” Gilmour said.

In his meetings with the South Sudanese authorities in Juba, the UN envoy urged them to combat the worrying rise of hate speech and to do more to protect human rights defenders.

Gilmour expressed frustrations to the Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, Gen. Paul Malong, on the severe restrictions on access that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) faced when trying to protect civilians, provide humanitarian assistance and monitor the human rights situation in the country.

He emphasized  that elements of the SPLA had engaged in what could well amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He, however, welcomed the recent start of UN human rights training for the SPLA and the appointment of SPLA focal points on conflict related sexual violence.

Gilmour urged the Director-General of the National Security Service to put an end to the practice of arbitrary and prolonged detention without charge, suggesting bring detainees before the courts, and allow them access to their lawyers and family.

Meanwhile, the three-member UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has called for the immediate launch of an independent mechanism to assist in investigating violations in the country, ahead of the establishment of the hybrid court.

As part of the 2015 Peace Agreement, the AU was mandated to establish a hybrid court for South Sudan, with the accord also providing for a truth commission and reparations authority.

“Critical evidence is being lost every day as witnesses are killed or disappear, as memories fade, and physical evidence degrades, which means investigations need to start now so the hybrid court has cases to hear,” Ken Scott, human rights Commissioner, said.

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