The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Tuesday it has "mounting evidence" that serious human rights abuses, including targeted ethnic killings, have been committed in the world's newest nation in the 16 days since violence broke out in Juba.
The alleged atrocities include extra-judicial killings of civilians and captured soldiers, massive displacements and arbitrary detentions, often on ethnic grounds, UNMISS said in a statement.
Evidence gathered by UNMISS shows that South Sudanese citizens are being targeted because they belong to President Salva Kiir's ethnic group, the Dinka, or to his former vice president Riek Machar's ethnic Nuer group, the statement said.
The two long-time rivals have been at odds since Kiir blamed an abortive coup bid, which the government said was masterminded by Machar, for sparking violence that started in Juba and has since spread to seven of South Sudan's 10 states.
UNMISS has said at least 1,000 people have been killed in the ongoing fighting and more than 180,000 displaced. Many of the displaced have sought refuge at U.N. facilities in South Sudan.
UNMISS warned that allowing the violence to continue could "destroy the fabric of the new nation,” which gained independence in 2011 after a long war with Khartoum that claimed some two million lives.
The majority of what UNMISS described as "the more brutal atrocities" in the current fighting are reported to have been carried out by "people wearing uniform," the statement said.
UNMISS head Hilde Johnson condemned "these terrible acts of violence" and said the perpetrators would be held to account.
UNMISS began collecting evidence and eyewitness testimony to help it to document allegations of rights abuses when the crisis in South Sudan began on Dec. 15.