GENEVA (24 December 2013) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the serious and growing human rights violations taking place daily in South Sudan during the past 10 days, calling on the leadership on both sides to protect civilians and refrain from instigating violence based on ethnic grounds.
“Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days,” Pillay said. “We have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba.”
The High Commissioner also expressed serious concern about the safety of those who have been arrested and are being held in unknown locations, including several hundred civilians who were reportedly arrested during house-to-house searches and from various hotels in Juba. Hundreds of members of the South Sudan National Police Service were also reportedly ordered to be disarmed and arrested from police stations across Juba.
Pillay reiterated her call on the authorities to reveal the whereabouts of all those who have been detained, including political leaders, and to refrain from conducting further arbitrary detentions.
The violence in South Sudan has already sparked massive displacement, with more than 40.000 internally displaced people who have sought refuge in the compounds of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The total number of the displaced population is expected to be much higher, with people reportedly seeking shelters in churches and other locations.
“There is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity,” Pillay said. “There need to be clear statements and clear steps from all those in positions of political and military control that human rights violations will not be tolerated and those responsible will be brought to justice.”
Under international law, those in positions of political and military control can be held responsible for violations committed by those under their leadership. The High Commissioner urged all senior leaders, both within and outside the Government, to take immediate steps to prevent further human rights violations.
She also called on the international community to strengthen its efforts to assist in the protection of civilians and the UN presence, including through a strengthened UNMISS.
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