South Sudan conflict: Women and girls raped, 'burned alive' and killed by militias as war reaches new levels of 'brutality and intensity'

President Salva Kiir has denied the report's allegations

Rose Troup Buchanan
Tuesday 30 June 2015 19:15
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South Sudan’s armed forces tortured, gang-raped and burned alive scores of women and girls in a brutal escalation of the on-going conflict, a new United Nations report claims.

The UN report states “at least” 172 women were abducted, while an additional 79 women and girls were sexually assaulted during a spate of violence notable for its “brutality and intensity” in an area of the world already characterised by vicious conflict.

Violence in the northern Unity region of the young nation, already suffering after 18-months of vicious civil war, errupted again in April with terrifying results for the local populations, the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMiss) notes in the report.

“Some of the most disturbing allegations compiled by Unmiss human rights officers focused on the abduction and sexual abuse of women and girls, some of whom were reportedly burned alive in their dwellings,” the report claimed.

It found nine separate occasions of women and girls “burnt in tukuls [traditional homes] after being gang-raped,” including one instance where a “lactating mother” was gang-raped by government forces after they had tossed her baby aside.

It found examples of torture, including a witness account of when “government forces placed a burning-red coal in the palms of a woman and squeezed her palms into a fist,” in an attempt to force the individual to reveal information.

The report, which interviewed 115 witnesses and survivors, noted the “scope and level of cruelty” characterising these actions “suggests a depth of antipathy that exceeds political differences.”

It will only fuel worries that the political conflict, on-going since December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, may lead to ethnic tensions between the native Dinka and Nuer.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for president Kiir denied the accusations, but told the BBC that the allegations were “too serious to ignore” and that his government would examine the report.

UNMiss’s report echoes that of earlier findings from Unicef. Only last week Anthony Lake, executive director of the humanitarian organisation, commented violence South Sudan “has reached a new level of brutality.”

The Unicef report found that hundreds of children had been raped and castrated in the region in the last month.

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