South Sudan

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2014/181) issued on 13 March 2014.

 

Since 15 December 2013, heavy fighting has affected the civilian population in
South Sudan, most notably in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile
States. In its interim report on the human rights crisis in South Sudan of 21 February
2014, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) indicated that
information available at the time of writing the report suggested that sexual violence
was a consistent characteristic of the crisis in all affected states and that there were
sectarian dimensions to the conflict, including the deliberate and ethnically based
targeting of and reprisal against Dinka and Nuer populations. In addition to having
targeted foreign women, perpetrators of opportunistic acts of sexual violence could
also have victimized other ethnic groups. In the report, UNMISS noted that alleged
perpetrators of sexual violence such as rape, gang rape, forced abortion and sexual
harassment include members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the
South Sudan national police service and opposition forces. Although reported
incidents are still being investigated, I am concerned that the information to date
suggests that violations are being committed by all the parties to the conflict.

 

Prior to 15 December, UNMISS had registered 73 credible allegations of
conflict-related sexual violence. Of the 73 cases, 42 were abductions, of which at
least 3 resulted in forced marriage. Rape was reported in 22 of the incidents and
other violations reported included 3 gang rapes, forced abortion and sexual
humiliation. Five verified incidents of the rape of minors by members of SPLA were
reported by child protection actors. SPLA members were allegedly responsible for
21 of the 73 incidents; 1 incident was reportedly perpetrated by a state official
together with police and military police officers. A total of 47 incidents were
reportedly perpetrated by unnamed armed individuals or groups. The Lord’s
Resistance Army was alleged to be responsible for 4 of the recorded incidents.

 

The majority of the incidents reported prior to 15 December occurred in the
context of cross-border incursions and military operations in Jonglei State between
SPLA and the armed group led by David Yau Yau. Several incidents of rape by
SPLA members in Jonglei were reported, including the alleged rape of a Murle
minor by an SPLA officer during food distribution. One incident of concern
involved the abduction of 32 women who were reportedly forced to walk naked
from their village to a military barracks and were “assigned” to soldiers and militia
members. Their return was facilitated by governmental, civil society and United
Nations actors, but to date no medical, legal or psychosocial service has been
provided to the victims. Of the limited services available to survivors of sexual
violence, the majority are concentrated in Juba. Efforts are being made to establish
special police units, safe spaces and medical services for survivors in state capitals
such as Bor (Jonglei State) and humanitarian actors have provided services to
survivors in some conflict-affected areas of Jonglei. The conflict that erupted on
15 December, however, has severely hampered the already limited access to medical
care.

 

There are significant barriers to justice and redress that deter survivors of
sexual violence from seeking assistance, while gaps in legislation hamper the
overall response. Survivors risk arrest and detention when reporting sexual violence
crimes. During 2013, legislation was passed to ratify the Convention on the Rights
of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, reaffirming the State’s obligations to protect
human rights, including by preventing conflict-related sexual violence. Before the
December 2013 crisis, SPLA had made efforts with respect to accountability,
exemplified by eight verdicts against SPLA soldiers and officers for rape. Also prior
to 15 December, UNMISS conducted 42 training sessions to raise awareness about
conflict-related sexual violence, including for SPLA and the national police.
UNMISS women protection advisers led a legislative review task force that
recommended, among other things, that the definition of rape in the Penal Code Act
(2008) be revised, and that revisions be made to the Local Government Act, to
remove provisions that grant the customary justice system jurisdiction over women
and children’s rights.

 

Recommendation

In relation to the post-15 December outbreak of conflict, I urge the parties to
live up to the commitments they made in the cessation of hostilities agreement of
23 January to refrain from attacking civilians, including by committing acts of rape
or sexual abuse, and to ensure accountability for sexual violence crimes. I welcome
the steps taken to establish the commission of inquiry mandated by the African
Union and underscore the important role of such a commission in investigating
human rights violations and other abuses, including conflict-related sexual violence,
during the recent conflict. I also urge the Government, with the support of the
United Nations and the international community, to pursue the legislative reforms
and the capacity-building efforts of the security and justice sectors necessary to
comprehensively address sexual violence.