South Sudan is falling far short in stopping serious human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and arbitrary arrest, the U.S. State Department said in a report released Friday.
The report painted a grim picture of human rights in the world's newest nation, saying the South Sudanese government "restricted the movement of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and NGO workers were sometimes attacked and harassed.
"Violence and discrimination against women and children by government actors and within communities were widespread.
"Trafficking in persons, discrimination and violence against selected ethnic groups, governmental incitement of tribal violence, and child labor, including forced labor, also occurred," it said.
The security forces were singled out for allegedly committing serious human rights abuses, "including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, intimidation, and other inhumane treatment of civilians."
Other abuses included "lack of access to justice, including arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, and corruption within the justice sector; and conflict-related abuses, including continuing abuse and displacement of civilians as a result of fighting between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces, rebel militia groups opposing the government, and rival ethnic communities," says the report.
In some cases, the report alleges that beatings and other violence carried otu by the security forces were ethnically motivated.
The government was chided for restricting freedoms of privacy, speech, press, assembly and association.
Smith College professor Eric Reeves, who for the past 14 years has been working as a Sudan researcher and analyst, called the report harsh, sometimes warranted, but sometimes imbalanced. He singled out Jonglei State as one of the areas where rights abuses were widespread.
"The fighting, the civilian destruction in Jonglei is energized by David Yau Yau, who is getting his weapons and his supplies from Khartoum," he said, referring to the leader of a rebel movement, active in Jonglei state, that has been accused of killing civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.
Reeves faulted the South Sudanese government for allowing rule of law to break down.
"Extrajudicial executions really must be conrolled. The rule of law, that's the first order of business. Without rule of law, South Sudan can't make any progress and there, I think it's fair to fault the leadership for not being more decisive. Same goes for corruption," he said.
The report would likely have the effect of diminishing investment in South Sudan, he said.
2012 -- the year the report released on Friday looked at -- was the first full year for which South Sudan's human rights record was monitored, following the country's independence in July 2011.
The State Department has compiled reports about human rights in numerous countries around the world for 36 years.