South Sudan's leaders are killing civilians and should be sanctioned: UN panel

New York: The United Nations Security Council should place an arms embargo on South Sudan, and its president should be sanctioned over atrocities in the oil-rich country's two-year civil war, a confidential report has recommended. 

The report by a UN panel that monitors the conflict in South Sudan said that President Salva Kiir, as well as rebel leader Riek Machar are still completely in charge of their forces and are therefore directly to blame for killing civilians and other actions that warrant sanctions.

The UN has long-threatened to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, but Russia, which has veto power, and Angola – a member of the council – have been reluctant to support it. According to a UN report last year, China sold $US20 million ($28 million) worth of "arms, ammunition, and related materiel" to the South Sudan army in 2014, but had stopped supply. Israel was believed to have supplied assault rifles, and Russia millions of dollars worth of helicopters.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said this week he was concerned that an arms embargo would be one-sided because it would be easier to enforce on the government.

The panel asked the council to blacklist "high-level decision makers responsible for the actions and policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of the country."

The names of the individuals the panel recommend for sanctions in the form of an international travel ban and asset freeze were not included in the body of the report. But a diplomat familiar with the contents told Reuters that a highly confidential annex calls for black-listing both Mr Kiir and Mr Machar.


A political dispute between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar, who was once Mr Kiir's deputy, sparked the civil war. But it has widened and reopened ethnic fault lines between Mr Kiir's Dinka and Mr Machar's Nuer people. More than 10,000 people have been killed.

Both sides signed a peace deal in August but have consistently broken a ceasefire, while human rights violations have "continued unabated and with full impunity," the panel wrote.

According to the report, those violations include extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, extrajudicial arrest and detention, abductions, forced displacement, the use and recruitment of children, beatings, looting and the destruction of livelihoods and homes.

The panel said that almost every attack on a village by the warring parties involved the rape and abduction of women and girls and that "all parties deliberately use rape as a tactic of war, often in gruesome incidents of gang rape."

The panel wrote that "there is clear and convincing evidence that most of the acts of violence committed during the war, including the targeting of civilians ... have been directed by or undertaken with the knowledge of senior individuals at the highest levels of the government and within the opposition."

However, they said the government appeared  to have been responsible for a larger share of the bloodshed in the country in 2015.

"While civilians have been and continue to be targeted by both sides, including because of their tribal affiliation, the panel has determined that, in contrast to 2014, the government has been responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations committed in South Sudan [since March 2015]," Payton Knopf, the UN's panel co-ordinator, told the Security Council sanctions committee.

UN peacekeepers in South Sudan are also "regularly attacked, harassed, detained, intimidated and threatened", the monitors said in the report.

The conflict in South Sudan, whose 2011 secession from Sudan had long enjoyed the support of the United States, has torn apart the world's youngest country. The panel reported that about 2.3 million people have been displaced since war broke out in December 2013, while 3.9 million face severe food shortages.

The report described how Mr Kiir's government bought at least four Mi-24 attack helicopters in 2014 from a private Ukrainian company at a cost of nearly $US43 million ($60 million).

"They have been vital in providing an important advantage in military operations, have facilitated the expansion of the war and have emboldened those in the government who are seeking a military solution to the conflict at the expense of the peace process," according to the report.

Mr Knopf told the council that Mr Machar's rebels were trying to "acquire shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to counter the threat of attack helicopters, specifically citing the need to continue and indeed escalate the fighting".

Mr Knopf told the council committee that the human cost of the war was comparable to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen relative to South Sudan's population of 12 million. And he said there was "a real risk of even larger scale mass atrocities within South Sudan".

The South Sudan mission to the United Nations in New York was not immediately available to comment on the report.


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