The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan warned that the country is suffering a human rights crisis of epic proportions, enmeshing its population in a cycle of violence, abuse and poverty. The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday.
According to the report, nine of the 10 states in South Sudan are engulfed in what the U.N. Commission calls alarming levels of conflict 10 years after independence was declared and despite multiple peace treaties signed to end the civil war that erupted in 2013.
Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka said violence in Warran and Lakes states is of particular concern.
“In March and July, the governors of Warran state and Lakes state ordered the summary execution of more than 56 individuals including minors," Sooka said. "These extrajudicial killings orchestrated by governors from the ruling party are sufficiently similar, widespread and systematic and may constitute crimes against humanity.”
The report documents the prevalence of enforced disappearances, torture, rape, and conflict-related sexual violence and the forced recruitment of child soldiers throughout the country.
It finds widespread lawlessness and violence have intensified, resulting in many deaths and the forcible displacement of millions of people.
A separate commission report dealing with economic crimes accuses South Sudanese political elites of illicitly diverting millions of dollars from public coffers into private bank accounts.
Commission member Andrew Clapham said these practices are undermining human rights, endangering security, and keeping 80% of the population living in extreme poverty.
“We have sought to clarify that the government of South Sudan has responsibility for violations of the right to health and the right to education, and the failure to provide adequate resources to fulfill these rights is related to the misappropriation of the revenue, which ought to be deposited in bank accounts of the state and then used to provide for education and health,” Clapham said.
The South Sudanese minister of justice and constitutional affairs, R.M.A. Kachuoli, rebutted the report, saying he does not agree with the commission’s view of his country.
Kachuoli said the security situation across South Sudan is relatively calm and peaceful. He said the government is dealing with ethnic conflict through dialogue and the use of traditional courts. He calls a peace agreement reached in 2018 a significant milestone toward achieving peace in his country.
He said his government deems the report on economic crimes and corruption exaggerated, and questions whether the three-member panel even has a mandate to look at this issue.