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South Sudan: UN expert appalled by attacks on IDPs and civilians and urges for cessation of hostilities

GENEVA (11 July 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, today condemned the recent attacks on IDPs and civilians in South Sudan, and called for the cessation of hostilities and the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

Fighting in the capital broke out during the weekend on the eve of Independence Day, and sustained gunfire and shelling has taken dozens of lives and displaced families in the thousands. More than 10,000 people may have been displaced in addition to the estimated 30,000 people who were already displaced in Juba, and this number continues to rise according to humanitarian sources.

“I am deeply disturbed by the renewed outbreak of violence in South Sudan, a country which marked its fifth anniversary of independence on Saturday with gunfire instead of celebration”, Mr. Beyani said.

In Wau town, Western Bahr el Ghazal State, villages emptied in recent weeks as civilians fled from violence into the bush. An estimated 83,000 people are now seeking refuge in churches, schools, and outside the peacekeeping base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). All of this comes just a few short months after the creation of the Transitional Government of National Unity.

“While it is clear that the peace agreement has now been breached, I would like to call upon the authorities to respect it and I remind the parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians in times of armed conflict,” the expert stated. “Under no circumstances should civilians be targeted, and they must further be allowed access to places of safety.”

Mr. Beyani noted that humanitarian workers have also been stopped and threatened at checkpoints when trying to deliver assistance, unable to reach the populations most in need.

“International humanitarian law also requires that parties to conflicts allow humanitarian actors to have safe and unimpeded access to deliver assistance to populations in need,” he stressed. He added that the recent threats to humanitarians in Wau are unconscionable, and that the leaders of the armed groups and armed forces must emphasise to their troops that this is unacceptable.

“I would like to commend UNMISS for having opened their gates to people seeking safety, particularly in the UN House”, stated Beyani. He added that civilians, humanitarians, and UNMISS staff alike came under heavy fire this weekend in Juba, and that despite the extraordinarily difficult circumstances, UNMISS welcomed people into their bases and provided them with shelter.

“Attacks on UNMISS staff must cease immediately. It is my sincerest hope that UNMISS will continue to provide this refuge for as long as the threat remains,” the UN Special Rapporteur concluded.

Mr. Chaloka Beyani (Zambia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx 

Read the Special Rapporteur’s 2014 report on South Sudan (A/HRC/26/33/Add.3): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Visits.aspx 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – South Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SSIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or Ms. Harriet Hirst (+41 22 739 8110 / hirst@unhcr.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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