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“South Sudan faces large displacement and protection crisis”– UN expert calls for dialogue to halt violence

GENEVA (20 December 2013) – “South Sudan will face a large displacement and protection crisis, if the situation is not managed with restraint or if political dialogue does not take place,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, warned today.

“I am deeply concerned about this violent upsurge, and the targeting of civilians, and call on all those involved to cease hostilities immediately,” Mr. Beyani said, adding his voice to those of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

More than 34,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought shelter in UN compounds in Juba, Bor and Bentiu due to the violence that broke out in South Sudan’s capital earlier this week. “The real scale of the internal displacement remains unclear at this stage as violence has started to spread across the country,” the expert said.

“This is primarily a political crisis that is spreading into an increasingly ethnicized conflict across South Sudan,” he said. Initial reports indicate several hundreds have died with many more injured. “Ethnically targeted violence is already reported and could escalate unrest across the rest of the world’s youngest nation,” Mr. Beyani noted.

Clashes in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, began on Sunday, 15 December 2013, allegedly triggered by either a mutiny or an attempted coup. The President’s dismissal of the former Vice President in July 2013 along with the entire Cabinet had already intensified political frictions along ethnic lines.

The war-torn capital of Jonglei, Bor, is now reported to be under the control of troops defected from South Sudan’s Liberation Army (SPLA). “This is likely to exacerbate the already volatile situation and displacement in Jonglei,” the expert noted.

The Special Rapporteur, who recently undertook an official mission* to look into the situation of internally displaced persons in South Sudan, welcomed the initiative of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to begin political dialogue in South Sudan.

Chaloka Beyani (Zambia), professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

(*) Read the Independent Expert’ statement after his visit to South Sudan (6-15 November 2013): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13998&LangID=E

For more information and media requests, please contact: Marie-Eve Friedrich (+41 22 917 9713 / idp@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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