South Sudan troops accused of ‘deliberately’ attacking civilians

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused South Sudanese government soldiers of carrying out “deliberate attacks on civilians” during the country’s 19-month conflict.

The AFP photo shows structures destroyed in violence in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan, June 10, 2015.
The AFP photo shows structures destroyed in violence in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan, June 10, 2015.

In its report, They Burned it All, released on Wednesday, the rights group said it documented murders “of civilian women and men, including children and the elderly, some by hanging others by shooting, or being burned alive.”

The rights group has recorded at least 60 unlawful killings of civilian women, men, and children and 63 cases of rape.

The US-based organization said the actions by government forces, which also include public gang rapes, amounted to war crimes.

According to locals and witnesses, the attacks were carried out by government forces and an allied militia from the Bul Nuer tribe.

Witnesses said government forces even ran over fleeing civilians with tanks.

“They were running with the tanks after the people, and then after they hit them they would roll back over them, to confirm that they were dead,” a woman told the HRW.

The report is based on interviews with 174 victims and witnesses from Unity State and research conducted in June and July by HRW researchers in “Unity State – in Bentiu, the state capital, and the town of Ganylel, Panyijiar county, in southern Unity state – and in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.”

According to the United Nations, the government’s operations in Unity State’s Rubkona, Guit, Koch, and Leer counties from late April to June forced more than 100,000 civilians from their homes.

South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and defectors led by his former deputy and current rebel leader, Riek Machar, around the capital, Juba.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the unrest.

The United Nations says over half of South Sudan’s 12 million population are in dire need of humanitarian aid, with over 20 percent of people at risk of suffering from famine.

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