News / Africa

South Sudan War Crimes Alleged

The tuberculosis ward at Malakal Teaching Hospital, South Sudan, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, where many of the murdered people were getting treatment. The hospital has been looted. Patients were shot in their hospital beds, medical and humanitarian staff killed, and medical facilities were destroyed in fighting.(AP Photo/Matthew Abbort)
The tuberculosis ward at Malakal Teaching Hospital, South Sudan, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, where many of the murdered people were getting treatment. The hospital has been looted. Patients were shot in their hospital beds, medical and humanitarian staff killed, and medical facilities were destroyed in fighting.(AP Photo/Matthew Abbort)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on alleged war crimes in South Sudan

Joe DeCapua

A rights group says it has documented acts of violence and cruelty in South Sudan that amount to war crimes. Human Rights Watch has released a new report called South Sudan’s New War.

Listen to De Capua report on alleged war crimes in South Sudan
Listen to De Capua report on alleged war crimes in South Sudani
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The 92 page report documents abuses since fighting broke out last December between government forces and rebels. Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of the group’s Africa Division, “We conclude that based on the research that we’ve done with more than 400 victims and witnesses of abuses that both sides have committed war crimes. And very possibly these may amount to crimes against humanity. So very serious crimes under the laws of war.”

One of the worst incidents documented, she said, occurred between December 15th and 18th of 2013.

“We documented how over the course of the next couple of days government forces, mainly Dinka members of the government forces, went house-to-house rounding up people of Nuer ethnicity. Detained between 200 and 400 men in an old police station in Juba and killed most of them.”

The Human Rights Watch official said at least a half dozen men – some of whom had been shot – survived by hiding under dead bodies. The report contains their testimony on what happened. Lefkow says there were many other incidents.

“In several of the key towns where the fighting took place over the last six months – places like Bor, Malakal, Bentiu – there were horrific crimes against civilians by both sides. Often people were targeted because of their ethnicity -- again by both sides – were killed in hospitals – were shot at as they were fleeing. Elderly people were killed in their homes because they were disabled or couldn’t flee. So, really horrific violence that continues at a lower level perhaps right now, but to this day,” Lefkow said.

When the fighting first erupted, many observers and analysts were reluctant to label it as an ethnic conflict. Not now.

She said, “I think looking back there’s no question that the ethnic dimension to this conflict is very clear. I think in the early days it was unclear whether it really was ethnically-driven violence. And also there was a lot of concern about catalyzing ethnic violence by describing it that way. But I think seven months on, it’s very clear that many of these killings have been based on people’s ethnicity.”

However, she added there have been a lot of crimes based on economic motives, too, such as looting. Lefkow said there’s no evidence at this time that any of these alleged crimes were officially sanctioned by either side.

Human Rights Watch is calling for a “comprehensive arms embargo” on South Sudan and “targeted sanctions on any individuals responsible for serious violations of international law.”

“The bulk of the violence in this conflict has been directed at civilians. You know, there’s been some fighting between the warring parties, but the majority of the violence has been directed at civilians,” said Lefkow.

The report calls on South Sudanese leaders at peace talks in Addis Ababa to commit to a justice process – and agree that no amnesty be given for serious crimes.

Lefkow said an African Union commission of inquiry is currently in South Sudan. It’s expected to report its findings of alleged crimes within a few months. However, she said, no one appears to be protecting and collecting the forensic evidence needed for possible criminal prosecutions. 

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs