IDPs in Tambura during the conflict last year (unmiss photo)

More than 60 civilians including a 13 year old girl were among those who were sexually abused during last year’s violence in Tambura County from the month of June to September.

According to a joint report launched today by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office, grave human rights violations and abuses, including hundreds of killings, were committed against civilians during fighting in Tambura County, Western Equatoria State.

“Between June and September 2021, at least 440 civilians were killed, 18 injured, and 74 abducted during clashes between warring groups. At least 64 civilians were subjected to conflict-related sexual violence, among them a 13-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death. In addition, some 80,000 were forced to flee their homes to escape fighting. Looting and destruction of property, child conscription, attacks on personnel and facilities, hate speech and incitement to violence were among the other human rights violations the investigation uncovered,” reads part of the report.

The report names members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) and the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) led by Major General James Nando and their respective affiliated militias as responsible for the violations and abuses.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to hold to account all individuals implicated in the killings, rape, and abductions, among other grave human rights violations,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. “Women and children who were abducted must immediately be released and reunited with their families, and survivors provided with reparations.”

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Those suspected of instigating, facilitating and aiding the violence have been identified comprising high-ranking military officials and community and religious leaders. ”Allegations against these individuals must be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated; and perpetrators brought to justice and held accountable,” Bachelet added. UNMISS and the UN Human Rights Office urge the Government of South Sudan to investigate and prosecute those responsible, including individuals in positions of command and authority.

Following the initial clashes, the Mission brought top-level government officials in Juba and Western Equatoria together to address the violence. UNMISS deployed 21 rotations of military, police and civilian personnel in Tambura and enabled humanitarians to conduct assessments and deliver relief to thousands of internally displaced people. The Mission also set up a Temporary Operating Base so peacekeepers could respond at short notice to provide protection and deter violence.

“Sustainable peace is only possible if gross violations of human rights that occurred during conflict are addressed through justice, truth, reconciliation, healing, compensation and reparations. The perpetrators of such brutal violence against the men, women and children of South Sudan cannot be left to benefit from impunity. Accountability is critical to deter further violations,” Bachelet said.