A UN report published on Friday says the South Sudanese government pursued a policy of intentional rape, pillage and killing of civilians including children during the civil war in 2015, while a report with parallel findings was published by Amnesty International human rights group on the same day.
The UN report said groups allied to the government violently killed and raped civilians including children suspected of supporting the opposition, while the Amnesty report accused them of deliberately suffocating dozens and dumping bodies in open pits.
The UN human rights office said, "The report contains harrowing accounts of civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children and the disabled, killed by being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees or cut to pieces."
In the 12 months to November 2015, there were an estimated 10,553 civilian deaths in Unity State, 7,165 of them due to violence and 829 caused by drowning. The patterns of killings were not random, isolated or accidental, but appeared to be deliberate, systematic and based on ethnicity, the report said.
The extent of rape "suggests its use in the conflict has become an acceptable practice by (government) SPLA soldiers and affiliated armed militias," the report said.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) March 11, 2016
The Amnesty International report says researchers recently visited the grounds of the Comboni Catholic Church where according to witnesses, government soldiers arbitrarily arrested dozens of men and boys in October 2015 forcing them into one or more shipping containers. The researchers found “the remains of many broken skeletons still strewn across the ground.”
“We could see the people inside and they were not alive….what we saw was tragic…the container was full of people. They had fallen over one another and on to the floor. There were so many people,” witnesses said
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) March 10, 2016
Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International said, “The arbitrary arrest, torture, and mass killing of these detainees is just one illustration of the South Sudanese government’s absolute disregard for the laws of war. Unlawful confinement, torture, willfully causing great suffering, and willfully killing are all war crimes.”
Previously, a UN senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that at least 50,000 people have been killed in South Sudan's two-year civil war.
The senior official also added that 2.2 million displaced due to conflict in the country.
A political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, sparked the civil war in December 2013, which has reopened ethnic fault lines between Kiir's Dinka and Machar's Nuer people.