Juba, South Sudan – In a wave of violence that swept through South Sudan resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a massacre in two separate incidents, last year. The victims were targeted for their religion, ethnicity, nationality or political views, which is a war crime, the United Nations said in a report released on Friday.
In a 33-page report, which is the result of the UN Security Council, calling for an investigation of April 2014 carnage in South Sudan’s oil hub, Bentiu. The UN peacekeeping mission stationed in South Sudan conducted the investigation, as well as an incident in the same month in the town of Bor.
“Un Human Rights Division indicates that there are judicious grounds to believe that at least 353 civilians were killed, with another 250 wounded in Bentiu and Bor fighting,” the report said.
The Bentiu massacres, it said, included at least 19 deaths at a Bentiu hospital and roughly 287 at a mosque in Kalibalek. In Bor, at least 47 civilians were killed at an UN Mission base where they were seeking protection.
“Perpetrators intentionally targeted civilians, often based on ethnicity, nationality, or perceived support for the opposing
party,” it said. “In both Bentiu and Bor, attacks took place against protected objects – a hospital, a mosque, and a United Nations base – which may amount to war crimes.”
The findings could form the basis for war crimes charges. Even though South Sudan is not a signing party to the International Criminal Court, the Security Council could hypothetically refer the country’s 13-month civil war to The Hague-based court. The report encourages UN members to support efforts to protect civilians “and assist with accountability efforts”.
The report cited one witness to the killings at the Bentiu hospital as saying: “They lined up about 20 Darfurians, who were tied with their own clothing … and told them to run to save their lives. When they ran, [rebel] fighters shot at them.”
While rebels are most likely responsible for the Bentiu event, “credible and consistent testimony” suggests the Bor
bloodbath might have involved some government forces, though it was unclear if they were there trying to stop the attack” the report said.
Civil war has killed more than 15, 000 people in the world’s youngest state and centers around some very deep and historical ethnic divisions which has resulted in more than one million to flee the fighting and pushed the country of 11 million closer to famine.
Violence had erupted in December 2013 in South Sudan after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his deputy and rival, Dr. Riek Machar. The conflict pits Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group against Machar’s Nuer. It was the Nuer fighters that have been accused of the atrocities, which puts Dr. Riek Machar in a precious place if he is official, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The demand for UN and NGO humanitarian relief in one of the world’s most dangerous countries is growing. An estimated 4 million people suffering from malaria, typhoid and cholera in large part to very few sources of clean water, poor food distribution and little medical care. Even though many of the maladies suffered by the South Sudanese is treatable the World Health Organization, USAID and other relief agencies are diverting millions of dollars towards Ebola research and care. Even though millions of Sudanese people could be saved with medicine and support, they will likely die without it, said the head of one of the medical relief organizations operating in South Sudan.
The Security Council has threatened both sides of the ongoing conflict with economic sanctions. However, it is divided over whether to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after one of Africa’s longest wars in modern history.