Government and rebel forces in and around South Sudan’s southern town of Yei have committed serious abuses against civilians in recent months, the monitoring group Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Government forces have committed killings, rape, and arbitrary arrests, and the rebels have committed abductions and attacks on civilians in the area, Human Rights Watch said, which adds to growing reports of the spiralling crisis from the region.
Since July, Yei has seen significant fighting between government and rebel forces, and more than one hundred thousand people have fled the area.
“Grisly killings of civilians and the fear of arrests and fighting had prompted mass displacement from Yei and surrounding areas starting in July,” Human Rights Watch said. “While Yei remains in government hands, rebels appear to control most surrounding areas,”
The report sheds light on a growing trend of arbitrary arrests by South Sudan’s military.
“Credible sources consistently said that soldiers or armed Dinka men dressed in civilian clothes would pick up male civilians at checkpoints, in the market, or at their homes, and hand them over to military intelligence at the Yei army barracks,” Human Rights Watch said. “In at least some cases, the men were arbitrarily detained during army sweeps through neighborhoods, apparently for no reason other than being there at that time,”
While being detained or tortured, “the security forces accused the detainees of collaboration with the opposition or questioned them about the whereabouts and command structure of the rebels,”
The report also details how Yei has seen a significant number of killings that have occurred in government controlled areas. Following an ambush on July 13th, SPLA soldiers killed four local civilians, claiming they were traitors. In early October, soldiers shot another displaced man with a mental health condition after witnesses said he had found the troops looting civilian property.
The report also detained two cases of rape by SPLA soldiers, and another incident were women were raped by what is believed to be South Sudan government soldiers.
Rebel soldiers have also increasingly targeted civilians, Human Rights Watch said, “especially along the main roads leading to Juba from the Equatorias,”
Oppositon fighters have also raped women on the outskirts of Yei town, Human Rights Watch said, and accused civilians entering the town of being loyal to the government.
“Both the general lack of security and arbitrary restrictions on movement by fighters on both sides have meant that government and church officials, health workers, and members of aid groups have been unable to reach some victims of abuse who live in areas under rebel control,” Human Rights Watch said.
This article is republished courtesy of Radio Tamazuj, a daily news service and current affairs broadcaster covering South Sudan, the southern states of Sudan, and the borderlands between the two countries.