The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has “strongly” condemned the widespread sexual violence, killings and other atrocities committed against civilians in Leer County of Unity State.
The UN has documented several cases of human rights violations allegedly carried out by armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties in Leer.
Between February 17 and April 7, 72 civilians were killed, at least 11 others injured and 64 cases of sexual violence recorded, according to team from UNMISS human rights division who have conducted 10 verification missions.
Two of the survivors narrated to the UNMISS investigation team how they were repeatedly raped and gang-raped after they came out of hiding to search for food for their children. Another woman who had recently given birth, recounted how she was raped and severely beaten for three days.
“I am strongly appalled by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer. We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for South Sudan.
According to initial reports, some 40,000 people have fled the violence in Leer, with thousands reportedly crossing the Nile to Fangak in Jonglei State.
Thousands of cattle were raided, and markets, homes, humanitarian facilities and warehouses were looted and burnt down. The wet season has already begun, along with the risk of floods, creating a dangerous situation for thousands of internally displaced families.
Violence in Mayendit and Koch counties, including Mirmir Payam, is also being investigated. UNMISS has deployed additional peacekeepers to conduct regular patrols, including night patrols in Leer town to prevent further loss of life.
Peacekeepers, UNMISS said, are providing protection to displaced people and humanitarians responding to the needs of survivors. However, the protection of civilians is first and foremost the responsibility of the government.
“The Mission welcomes initial steps taken in the formation of an investigation committee and the deployment of SSPDF to restore security,” stressed Haysom.
He added, “The Mission urges national and local authorities to take immediate measures to reduce tensions and prevent further escalations and retaliatory attacks. Impunity on violations of human rights must end and perpetrators held accountable for these horrible crimes”.
Haysom, however, said UNMISS is engaging with leadership at the capital and state levels to mitigate violence while civil affairs teams are meeting with communities to conduct focus group discussions in conflict-affected areas.
- Sudan Tribute report