GENEVA (19 December 2013) The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned Thursday against the rapidly deteriorating security situation in South Sudan and the consequences for the civilian population.
On Sunday, violent clashes between soldiers erupted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, leading to an unknown number of casualties. The fighting then spread to other parts of the country with clashes between rival Nuer and Dinka soldiers within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and attacks on civilians reported in Jonglei, Unity and Warrap States.
“I am deeply worried about the safety and security of civilians caught in the crossfire. The risk of seeing the fighting taking on an ethnic dimension is extremely high and could result in a dangerous situation,” Pillay said.
“We have received reports of civilians killed in Juba based on their ethnicity. I call on the Government to send a clear message on command responsibility within the SPLA to prevent retaliatory attacks based on ethnicity and tribal affiliation and to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable,” said the High Commissioner.
In Juba, an estimated 20,000 people, mainly women and children, are still camped at UN premises while in Bor, in Jonglei State, more than 10,000 internally displaced people have sought refuge on UN premises. Other civilians are reported to be leaving the town, fearing attack by rival groups.
“I am extremely concerned by the fate of individuals arrested by the Government and reports of numerous extra-judicial killings. In particular, I urge the authorities to clarify the whereabouts of former senior government officials arrested in Juba two days ago, including the former Governor of Lakes State and the former Secretary General of the SPLM ,” Pillay said.
The Government confirmed the arrest of at least 10 senior former government officials, including six ministers. In Warrap State, security forces loyal to the Government also arrested a number of key local officials accused of supporting the alleged coup plot.
“I urge the Government to ensure that all those detained are accorded due process and that they are promptly either charged or released,” said the High Commissioner.
“I urge all parties, including members of the security forces, to exercise utmost restraint and comply with international human rights and humanitarian law,” Pillay said.