Muslim Times(Web Desk) – The United Nations human rights agency says at least 232 civilians have lost their lives and 120 women and girls raped this spring during attacks launched by South Sudan government soldiers and their allied forces in opposition-held rural areas.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced the shocking news in a report on Tuesday, adding that a UN investigation had already identified three commanders who purportedly bore the “the “greatest responsibility” for the horrific acts.
It also said that the violence had occurred in the northern state of Unity between April 16 and May 24, which could amount to war crimes. The office elaborated that the elderly and disabled civilians had been burned alive in the attacks on 40 villages, which appeared to be aimed at driving out opposition fighters.
“The perpetrators … must not be allowed to get away with it,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in a statement on Tuesday, adding that South Sudan troops had also slit elderly villagers’ throats, hanged women for resisting looting and shot fleeing civilians.
The UN official also reiterated his call on the government and the African Union (AU) to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan.
Elsewhere in the report, the UN rights agency said that the opposition forces, for their part, had conducted armed attacks that caused civilian casualties.
Separately, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said that on May 17 it began deploying 150 peacekeepers to protect civilians from violent clashes between the warring sides in the flashpoint state, which hosts abandoned oil fields.
There was no immediate reaction to the report from the Juba government.
South Sudan, the youngest country in Africa, has been gripped by a bloody civil war since December 2013, when incumbent President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
The two sides have been involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along the ethnic lines. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.
Frequent attacks on humanitarian convoys and personnel have been reported in South Sudan’s conflict and both warring sides have been blamed.
On Sunday, South Sudan’s warring parties agreed to a power-sharing agreement, according to which Machar would be reinstated as vice president. The opposition, however, rejected the peace plan a day later.