Rights group urges sanctions on South Sudan leaders
A major human rights group on Tuesday urged the international community to impose sanctions on South Sudanese leaders for failing to halt atrocities and hold the culprits accountable, including for acts of killing, rape, and forced displacement.
A 52-page Human Rights Watch report says nine men-including President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, former army Chief of Staff Paul Malong, and six other commanders-should face sanctions in view of the mounting evidence of their responsibility for grave violations during the years-long conflict.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: "Four years into this crisis, gruesome crimes continue, with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands facing a man-made famine. It's well past time to send a strong message to those in positions of power that atrocities will come at a price."
"The United Nations Security Council, European Union, and other states should impose sanctions on the nine men, and the Security Council should also impose a long-overdue, comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan," said the report.
The report documents the spreading violence and serious abuses against civilians in the Greater Equatoria region, in southern South Sudan, over the last year.
But a government spokesman denied reports that South Sudanese government troops had committed atrocities against civilians in the Equatoria region.
"We know the agenda of Human Rights Watch every time the government is falsely accused of crimes against civilians," Michael Makuei Lueth told Anadolu Agency over the phone in the capital Juba.
"This is baseless propaganda made to tarnish the government's image. The army does not kill civilians but protect them," he added.
CONFLICT AND CHAOS
Since the conflict started in December 2013, almost 2 million people have fled South Sudan, and another 1.5 million are internally displaced, with more than 200,000 still in UN protection sites.
In the last year alone, the spreading conflict and abuses pushed over 700,000 South Sudanese into refugee settlements in northern Uganda, leaving many areas in the Greater Equatoria region empty.
The Human Right Watch report says the violations and abuses may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity and that they warrant further investigation.
The report spotlights cases of indiscriminate shelling of civilians; targeted killings; looting and burning of civilian property; and cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting.
South Sudan descended into chaos in December 2013 after a political dispute in the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) between Kiir and his former deputy Machar led to fighting, most along ethnic lines.
The 2015 peace deal to end the violence was again violated last July when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, forcing rebel leader Machar, who had been reinstated to his old post of vice president, to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands and displaced over 3 million from their homes, and put 6 million at the risk of starvation.