The United Nations has accused South Sudan armed opposition group, led by Riek Machar, of committing crimes against humanity in the Western Equatoria region. The accusations are the first-ever charges by the UN against Machar’s movement.
According to the UN, in April 2018 before the peace agreement signed in August, Sudan People’s Liberation Army- in Opposition (SPLA-IO) forcefully took 900 people including children and women.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it has facilitated the release of 24 persons detained in relation to the conflict in South Sudan, including 16 detainees released earlier on Friday.
This week marks the first releases of prisoners supervised by the ICRC following the signing of the latest peace agreement in which parties to the conflict agreed to free detainees.
The ICRC statement, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, confirmed the release of the war captives to be the first batch since the agreement signing on September 12. However, the organization refused to release the names of those released.
UN charges facing the SPLA-IO included killings, rape, slavery, forced recruitment, destruction of more than 28 villages and the targeting of civilians.
The UN said that other than kidnapping 900 people, the rebel movement forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes between April and August.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet appealed to the rebel movement to release nearly 1,000 civilians allegedly abducted from the Western Equatoria region.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said it was disappointing that the spike in violence took place while warring parties were negotiating a new peace agreement and despite positive reconciliation efforts in the affected community at the time.
“A new peace agreement has been signed which puts the onus and responsibility on the warring parties to ensure that no atrocities are committed in the future. UNMISS will be closely monitoring any potential violations and abuses,” said Shearer.
However, SPLA-IO deputy spokesman Paul Lam Kabriel denied that his movement committed any of the claimed atrocities.