A new United Nations report documents widespread and pervasive rape and sexual violence against women and girls, some as young as eight, in South Sudan's northern Unity Region.
The U.N. says at least 175 women and girls were victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence between September and December. It adds the actual number of victims was likely to be considerably higher.
The U.N. says attacks against civilians in South Sudan have decreased since the peace accord was signed Sept. 12. But it says conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity.
Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville says the kind of sexual violence being committed is particularly brutal and cruel. He says almost 90 percent of women and girls have been gang raped, often over several hours. He says no one is spared. Even pregnant women and nursing mothers are victims of sexual violence.
"The extreme brutality of the attackers appears to be a consistent feature with women and girls describing how they were brutally beaten by perpetrators with rifle butts, sticks, small firearms and cable wires if they attempted to resist their assailants or were simply gratuitously beaten after the rapes had taken place,” Colville said.
Colville said no one is held accountable for the crimes. He said sexual violence is committed in a climate of pervasive impunity, contributing to the sense that violence against women and girls is a normal way of life.
The U.N. said most of the attacks reportedly have been carried out by youth militia groups and other elements allied with government forces. It said a few attacks also have been perpetrated by members of the pro-Riek Machar Opposition.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is calling on South Sudanese authorities to protect women and girls, to promptly investigate all allegations of sexual violence, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.