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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

South Sudan: Bachelet calls for accountability as hundreds reported killed in intercommunal violence

22 May 2020


GENEVA (22 May 2020) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has condemned a new outbreak of intercommunal violence in South Sudan that has reportedly left hundreds dead according to local authorities, calling for those responsible to be brought swiftly to justice. 

"The reports from Jonglei State are appalling, indicating that scores of civilians have been killed in attacks across 28 villages between 16 and 17 May, with many more injured and thousands displaced," said Bachelet.

"This recurring pattern of violence, which continues to claim lives in South Sudan, has to stop. I urge the Government to ensure measures are in place to investigate this violence and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted, and that victims and their families have access to justice, truth and reparations," she stressed.

While politically motivated fighting in South Sudan has declined, this year has seen an increase in intercommunal violence. During the first quarter of 2020, it was the main source of violence affecting civilians, resulting in 658 people killed, 452 injured, 592 abducted and 65 subjected to sexual violence.

Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) have suffered years of food insecurity and were severely hit by flooding in 2019. There have been several outbreaks of violence there in recent months, including a series of attacks from mid-February to early March  that left 220 civilians dead and during which at least 266 women and children were abducted. Most of these victims have not been released from captivity.

The nature of the intercommunal conflicts, long driven by tensions over access to natural resources, particularly water and grazing land for cattle, has been evolving in recent years, taking on an increasingly militarized character with military-style tactics and military-grade weapons.

"As I have indicated previously, for the peace in South Sudan to be durable, the State authorities must act to end these cycles of retaliatory violence, including by holding those responsible to account and promoting peace-building between individual communities," Bachelet said.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected] or Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] or Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected]

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