Government and rebel forces in and around South Sudan’s southern town of Yei have committed serious abuses against civilians in recent months, Human Rights Watch said today.
The abuses include killings, rapes, and arbitrary arrests by government forces and abductions by rebels.
The abuses Human Rights Watch documented in Yei are just the latest example of attacks on civilians by both sides in the current conflict.
Fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces and rebels and attacks by both parties on civilians intensified in the country’s southern regions in the wake of clashes in the capital, Juba, in early July 2016.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the Greater Equatoria region in the south as a result.
South Sudan’s civil war has been marked by widespread attacks on civilians by government forces and members of the rebel movement, since the conflict began in December 2013.
A power-sharing agreement signed by leaders of both sides in August 2015 has been undermined by ongoing clashes and fighting in a number of previously stable areas.
Yei residents told Human Rights Watch that grisly killings of civilians and the fear of arrests and fighting had prompted mass displacement from Yei and surrounding areas starting in July. While Yei remains in government hands, rebels appear to control most surrounding areas.
In one reported killing on August 23, unidentified attackers entered a house and killed a mother and her 4-year-old daughter with machetes, then dumped their bodies in a river.
The 4-month-old baby was cut on the neck but survived. The killings took place in areas controlled by government forces but in this and some other cases, Human Rights Watch was unable to identify if the attackers were government forces or rebel fighters.
The rights group also documented numerous cases of arbitrary detentions of civilian men by government troops in military facilities in Yei, adding to an ongoing pattern of arbitrary detentions by the military in Juba, Yambio, and Wau.
Credible sources in Yei said the detainees were tortured and held in deplorable conditions. At least two people were victims of enforced disappearances, with the authorities denying that they were being held and their whereabouts unknown.
Enforced disappearances are strictly prohibited under all circumstances and may constitute a war crime.