NAIROBI — A new report from Amnesty International accuses government forces in South Sudan's Jonglei state of raping and killing civilians during a disarmament campaign this year. The London-based group has urged South Sudan's government to take action to end human right violations in the region.
Amnesty International says South Sudan's armed forces and police committed grave human rights violations during Operation Restore Peace, a disarmament effort launched in Pibor County in March, in response to a wave of violence between rival communities.
Amnesty's South Sudan researcher Khairunissa Dhala told VOA the researchers documented cases of soldiers raping, torturing and killing civilians as they went searching for weapons.
"These included simulated drowning and beatings of men and women in order for them to hand over their guns, in addition to children as young as 18 months being beaten, sexual violence and shootings, including three men that we know of that were shot dead and had not been armed," said Dhala.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has also documented similar human rights abuses committed by government forces in Pibor.
South Sudanese officials have mostly dismissed the allegations as biased and exaggerated.
Dhala says that according to government sources in the area, soldiers involved in the disarmament campaign have been poorly trained and do not represent the whole army.
"They believe that the acts being carried out in Pibor were acts being done by individuals that weren't indicative of the character of the army as a whole," said Dhala. "However, we believe that the government and the army have to adhere to their code of conduct and their command structures and ensure that they are abiding to international human rights standards when they carry out this campaign."
Amnesty says five soldiers accused of committing rape and murder have been detained, but because the legal system is lacking, there have been no investigations or trials.
The army launched the disarmament campaign following a series of clashes earlier this year between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes that left nearly a thousand people dead.