FILE - Government soldiers stand guard by their vehicle on the front lines in the town of Kuek, northern Upper Nile state, South Sudan, Aug. 19, 2017
FILE - Government soldiers stand guard by their vehicle on the front lines in the town of Kuek, northern Upper Nile state, South Sudan, Aug. 19, 2017

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - President Salva Kiir's spokesman has criticized a recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which accuses dozens of top South Sudanese military officials of committing war crimes.

In an exclusive interview Thursday with VOA's South Sudan In Focus, Ateny Wek Ateny claimed the report contains several contradictions that could lead to further destabilization of South Sudan.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission report released Feb. 23 identified more than 40 senior military officials who the U.N. said may bear individual responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in South Sudan.

Human rights investigators collected testimony from witnesses about alleged atrocities committed against civilians by men in uniform who were in Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) units deployed across the country.

Commanders cited

The report cited individual commanders who were responsible for widespread attacks on civilians.

Ateny said the U.N. Human Rights Commission should turn over the names of all military officials accused of committing crimes and the corresponding evidence to the South Sudan government.

He dismissed the report, claiming it could affect efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan.

"This report is capable of destroying peace because the evidence is just based on literature that they have interviewed 230 people and examined 58,000 documents — written by who?" Ateny asked.

"The inconsistency of the report, even that 85-year-old woman was raped in front of the husband is completely a literature, because I don't think there is an 85-year-old woman in South Sudan having a husband considering the life expectancy in South Sudan," he said.

Peace, stability will suffer

The commission's report identified 40 generals, eight lieutenant generals, 17 major generals and others who may bear individual responsibility for serious human rights violations.

Ateny claims implicating top army officers could hurt efforts to restore peace and stability across South Sudan. He said the report "would significantly jeopardize" peace efforts "because you are talking about 40 generals, 37 senior army commanders and eight lieutenant generals, 17 major generals. This is the entire SPLA leadership! It is just like trying to say you want to disband the whole SPLA," he said.

The presidential spokesman said the report would hinder establishment of a African Union-mandated hybrid court. 

"How can the entire leadership of the army be accused of committing crimes against humanity and how can a hybrid court work here now when the whole entire army who would be the one to secure the hybrid court here in Juba is all made criminals?" Ateny asked. 

The commission's report documented what it describes as appalling instances of cruelty against civilians. It cites cases where some civilians had their eyes squeezed out, throats slit, and some men and boys were castrated.

The report documented cases in which children were forced to watch loved ones being raped or killed.

Some residents of Juba doubt any trials of suspects in the city's court system would produce credible results.

Justice won't come easy

A resident who preferred not to be identified for safety reasons said she doubts the military officials implicated in the report will ever face trial in South Sudan.

"You know our country and how things are being done ... especially when something is connected to the government. Talking about it is not easy. They might bring it, but I don't think anything will happen," the woman told South Sudan in Focus.

Information minister Michael Makuei dismissed the U.N. report earlier this week, saying the government has the capacity to try military officials accused of committing crimes in South Sudan.