South Sudan: UN Mission must boost efforts to protect civilians amid ongoing violence

14 March 2018

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) must boost efforts to protect civilians against the senseless violence that has plagued the country for over four years, and publicly report on the human rights situation, Amnesty International said today.

The UN Mission, whose mandate is set to be extended tomorrow, has a crucial role to play in providing much-needed civilian protection, and timely public reporting on the human rights situation in the country.  

“With the continuing conflict and associated human rights violations in South Sudan, the possibility of civilians returning to their homes or being resettled remains remote. The Protection of Civilians (POC) sites are truly life-saving for hundreds of thousands of people in desperate needof protection,” said Dr. Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“With its work in the country set to be extended, UNMISS must continue to guarantee that the civilian protection sites remain a safe haven amid the ongoing violence.”

Amnesty International is also calling on UNMISS to continue extending their protection to civilians in other areas outside the capital affected by fighting, and where humanitarian assistance is desperately needed.

The UN Mission must also improve its ability to protect South Sudanese civilians from sexual violence crimes both within and outside civilian protection sites.

In February 2018, a UN police unit charged with providing security for a civilian protection site in Wau, South Sudan, was accused of engaging in transactional sex with women under their protection. UNMISS recalled the 46-person unit and launched investigations into their conduct.

“UNMISS must take decisive action on all human rights violations within its own ranks and hold peacekeepers accountable following these accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse,” Joan Nyanyuki said.


UNMISS was originally established in 2011 with an initial mandate to help create the conditions for development in the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan. In March 2014, the Mission’s focus was shifted away from its peace and state-building functions to protecting civilians, facilitating humanitarian assistance and monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country.

Since the beginning of the conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, civilians have been subjected to untold suffering. Both government and opposition forces have used denial of food as a weapon of war, imposing restrictions on civilian access to food, and as a result contributing to severe food insecurity.

Despite the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 21 December 2017, government and opposition forces have continued fighting in different pockets of the country.

Public document

South Sudan: A Year On, 2 Men’s Whereabouts Unknown, Reveal Fate

24 January 2018
For Immediate Release


Whereabouts of Dong Samuel Luak, Aggrey Idri

South Sudanese authorities have failed to investigate the enforced disappearance in Nairobi of two South Sudanese men one year ago, and hold those responsible to account, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. Kenyan authorities should also step up their ongoing investigation into the enforced disappearances.  
Dong Samuel Luak, a well-respected South Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist, and Aggrey Idri, a vocal government critic and member of the opposition, disappeared off the streets of Nairobi on January 23 and 24, 2017, respectively. They are believed to have been abducted by or at the request of South Sudanese officials.
“These two prominent men should not be allowed to simply vanish into thin air without a trace,” said Mausi Segun, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. “Responsibility for the safety of both men lies with both South Sudan and Kenya, yet neither is making real efforts to solve their disappearance.”
Opponents of the South Sudan government, real or perceived, have been targets of abuse and threats apparently from government sources, even when outside the country’s borders. Numerous activists and opposition members who fled South Sudan have reported threats and intimidation by suspected South Sudanese government agents in the region. Luak fled South Sudan in 2013 but continued to denounce human rights abuses and corruption after he moved to Nairobi in August 2013.  
On January 27, 2017 a Kenyan court ruled that the men should not be deported, but by then both had been forcibly disappeared and presumably illegally transferred to Juba. In February 2017, non-governmental organizations and family representatives filed a habeas corpus petition in a Kenyan court for the men’s release, but the court found on February 22 that there was insufficient evidence that they were ever in Kenyan custody. The judge ordered police to open a criminal investigation, which is ongoing.
South Sudanese authorities denied having custody of the men or knowledge of their whereabouts. However, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch received credible reports that the two men had been seen in custody at the National Security Services (NSS) headquarters in Juba on January 25 and 26 2017 and were then removed from this facility on January 27. The two organizations believe they were transferred to another facility under the control of the South Sudanese government.
The forcible disappearance and return of the men to South Sudan, where they risk human rights violations including torture and other ill-treatment, violates international law as well as regional and national Kenyan law. Enforced disappearances and torture are both crimes under international law in all circumstances and may be subject to prosecution as war crimes or crimes against humanity.  
While Kenyan authorities have denied any involvement in or knowledge of the illegal actions, in recent years, Kenya has allowed the deportation of several people with refugee status to their countries of origin. In November 2016, Kenyan authorities unlawfully deported James Gatdet Dak, a South Sudanese opposition member and spokesperson for the opposition leader Riek Machar, to South Sudan even though he had refugee status. He was held in solitary confinement at the NSS headquarters in Juba, then charged with treason and other crimes against the state in August 2017.
On December 29, an opposition official, Marko Lokior Lochapo, was abducted from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
Since South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013, the NSS has arbitrarily detained dozens of perceived opponents, often torturing and ill-treating them with electric shocks, beatings, and harsh conditions.  Authorities have also been responsible for enforced disappearances – in which authorities deny knowledge of a detention or abduction – as part of their campaign against those perceived to be government opponents.
On December 21, 2017, the South Sudan government and other opposition groups signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in an effort to revitalize the 2015 Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan. As part of the new agreement, the government is required to release all political prisoners and detainees, prisoners of war and anyone deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the conflict and hand them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“South Sudan should demonstrate it is serious about releasing political prisoners held unlawfully,” said Sarah Jackson. Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “Both the South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities should urgently investigate and disclose the whereabouts and fates of the two men and ensure justice, truth and reparation for the crimes committed against them.”

South Sudan: Global action needed to end human rights violations and humanitarian crisis



Sustained international action is urgently needed to end the horrific human rights violations taking place in South Sudan, said Amnesty International today as the country’s armed conflict entered its fifth year.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, thousands more subjected to sexual violence, and close to four million displaced since the conflict began on 15 December 2013.

“Coordinated and sustained international action is needed now more than ever to end the suffering in South Sudan, especially as the rainy season ends and the dry season begins, heralding an escalation in fighting,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“Regional states and the international community must work together to find a lasting solution to this crisis and put an end to the litany of human rights violations.”

The last four years of fighting have had a devastating impact on civilians. Thousands of men, women and children have been subjected to unimaginable acts of violence, including sexual assault, by government and opposition forces, some of which could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes.

In the Equatoria region, Amnesty International found that government and opposition forces cut food supplies to certain areas, systematically looted food from markets and homes, and targeted civilians carrying even the smallest amount of food across frontlines.

“Food has been used as a weapon of war, and as a result today approximately 4.8 million people are considered to be food insecure. This state of affairs will continue, unless speedy action is taken to end the humanitarian crisis,” said Sarah Jackson.

“Efforts to end the conflict must also include imposition of an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict and concrete measures to deliver justice to victims of grave human rights violations, chiefly through the setting up of the much-delayed Hybrid Court for South Sudan.”

During the prolonged conflict, journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition supporters have been harassed, arbitrarily arrested and in some cases tortured, and humanitarian workers have been prevented from carrying out their duties.


“The South Sudanese authorities must restore unfettered access to aid agencies to distribute much-needed food and medical supplies to victims of this conflict. They must also allow civil society actors to operate freely.”


For more, see our previous reporting:


Uganda: International community must avert growing crisis as number of South Sudanese refugees reaches a million


17 August 2017
The international community must deliver and improve on existing financial commitments to help Uganda support the refugees it is hosting, following a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announcement that one million South Sudanese refugees are now in the country, Amnesty International said today.
Driven by the ongoing violence in South Sudan, refugees have been entering Uganda in their thousands, especially since the spread of the conflict to formerly peaceful areas after July 2016. Amnesty International has documented evidence of unlawful killings, sexual violence, detention, torture, the purposeful destruction of private and public property, the use of food as a weapon of war and other serious human rights violations in South Sudan; all of which have been drivers of forced displacement into neighboring Uganda.
“This unhappy one-million milestone must serve as a wake-up call to the international community that much more is needed from them. With no resolution to the conflict in South Sudan in sight, refugees will continue to flee to Uganda and the humanitarian crisis will only escalate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“While the Ugandan government, the UN and NGOs have done a commendable job, they are now struggling to meet even the most basic needs of South Sudan’s refugees, including food, water and shelter, let alone other needs such as psychosocial support for refugees who are deeply traumatized.”
At a solidarity summit held in Kampala, in June, hosted by the Ugandan government and the UN, donors including the EU, the UK and Canada pledged to provide Uganda with greater support in responding to refugees’ immediate and longer-term needs. The summit raised US$358.2 million of the US$ 2 billion requested, including US$960 million for humanitarian needs, but much more is needed.
“It is time for other countries to bear their share of responsibility and do much more to alleviate the unsustainable pressure being placed on Uganda. Failure to do so undermines Uganda’s progressive refugee policy and could result in an even worse humanitarian crisis than we are currently witnessing,” said Sarah Jackson.
“And ultimately, to stem the flow of refugees fleeing the country, international and regional actors must also take measures to stop violations against the civilian population in South Sudan.”


  • In addition to the commitments made at the Uganda solidarity summit, states have obligations under international human rights law and refugee law to provide support to each other to host refugees, known as ‘responsibility sharing’. This includes significantly increasing funding to enable access basic services such as food, water, sanitation, shelter, education and healthcare
  • The international community must also consider longer term solutions, including      increasing the number of resettlement places in other countries and establishing other avenues to allow people to leave the region safely such as: community sponsorship, work and student visas.
  • Over 64% of refugees are children under the age of 18. Together with women, they make up 86% of the entire refugee population in Uganda.
  • The full list of Amnesty International recommendations is featured in the report: Uganda: “Help has not reached me here”: Donors must step up support for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda 
  • A podcast by Sarah Jackson on the crisis in South Sudan is available here.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Amnesty International’s press office on +44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0)77 7847 2126 email: twitter: @amnestypress
Seif Magango
Media Manager – East Africa
T: +254 20 428 30 20
M: +254 788 343897

South Sudan: Sexual violence ‘on a massive scale’ leaves thousands in mental distress amid raging conflict


Thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, and some men, who have been raped in ethnically-charged sexual attacks in the ongoing conflict are battling mental distress and stigma with nowhere to turn for help, Amnesty International revealed in a new report out today.

Do not remain silent”: Survivors of Sexual violence in South Sudan call for justice and reparations, reveals aggravated acts of sexual violence against thousands of people across the country since hostilities began in December 2013. The report is the result of a joint research project between Amnesty International and 10 South Sudanese human rights defenders who cannot be named due to fear of reprisals from the government of South Sudan.

Perpetrators come from both sides of the conflict, pitting the government forces of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against opposition forces of Riek Machar, a Nuer, and their respective allied armed groups.

“This is pre-meditated sexual violence on a massive scale. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives.” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“These indefensible acts have left the victims with debilitating and life-changing consequences, including physical injuries and psychological distress. Many survivors have also been shunned by their husbands and in-laws and stigmatized by the wider community.”

Amnesty International’s researchers interviewed 168 victims of sexual violence including 16 men, in cities, towns and villages across four states in South Sudan – Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity – as well as in three refugee settlements in northern Uganda.

In some cases, the attackers killed the women after they had raped them. In one incident, the assailants mutilated a woman’s vagina with a knife after raping her because she had tried to resist. She died from her injuries four days later.

Civilian men have also been attacked. Some have been raped, others castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles. In one particularly gruesome case, four government soldiers inserted grass in a young man’s anal passage, set it on fire and watched him burn to death.

One survivor, Gatluok, who could not escape with others when government soldiers raided his village in Unity State in May 2015 told Amnesty International:
“Because of my blindness, I couldn’t run with the young men and so I was caught. They told me to choose if I wanted to be raped or be killed. I said I didn’t want to be killed and so they decided to rape me.”
“Some of the attacks appear designed to terrorize, degrade and shame the victims, and in some cases, to stop men from rival political groups from procreating,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
Unending suffering

One of the women Amnesty International spoke to is now HIV+. Others are suffering from fistula and bowel incontinence. Some men have been rendered impotent.

Many victims said they were experiencing nightmares, loss of memory, lack of concentration, and had thought of revenge or suicide – all common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jokudu, a 19-year-old woman, was brutally raped by five government soldiers near Yei town in December 2016. She is now unable to control her urine and bleeds frequently.

Nyabake, 24, was gang-raped by government soldiers at a checkpoint in Juba in July 2016. She said she can no longer sleep for more than three hours a night because of nightmares. She said she always feels the soldiers are coming back.

Sukeji was gang-raped by three government soldiers in Kajo Keji in August 2016 in front of her two children. She said, “I do not want to remember but sometimes it just comes in my mind and I cry. Sometimes I wonder whether my children have this in their memory. When they grow up, what will they think of their mother?”

Nyagai, who was gang-raped by government soldiers in Juba in July 2016, lost her religious faith after her assault. She said she stopped going to church after she was raped and does not pray anymore. “Satan went through me the day I was raped,”she said.

Jacob, whose wife Aluel, was raped in front of him by fighters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition (SPLM-IO) – in Juba in July 2016, says he has contemplated suicide.

“The South Sudanese government must take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence, starting by sending a clear message of zero tolerance, immediately ordering an independent and effective investigation into the attacks that have taken place and ensuring that those responsible are held to account in fair trials,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

“It must also deter sexual violence, including through removing suspects from the armed forces until allegations against them are independently verified or dismissed. Victims must be provided with justice, medical care and reparations,”

“Opposition forces must prohibit sexual violence in their ranks as well, put in place robust mechanisms to monitor the conduct of their fighters, and cooperate with all investigations and prosecutions of their members under international law.”
Politically and ethnically targeted

Many of the victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, which is increasingly conflated with political allegiance to either the government or the opposition.

In most cases Amnesty International documented, Dinka men attacked Nuer women and Nuer men attacked Dinka women. But there are also cases, as in Unity State, where pro-government Nuer men have raped Nuer women they consider pro-opposition. In other cases, government forces have targeted women from non-Nuer communities.

“They [government soldiers] were telling me that I should blame God for creating me a Nuer,” said 36-year-old Nyachah, who was raped by seven government soldiers in the capital Juba. Her attackers were dressed in Presidential Guard uniforms and spoke Dinka.

Nyaluit, who was raped by five government soldiers in December 2013 said: “They raped me because I am a Nuer woman… They were talking about what happened in Bor – that Dinka women and girls were raped and killed by Riek Machar’s ethnic group, the Nuer.”

James, a Dinka, was forced to watch as nine Nuer opposition fighters broke into his home and took turns gang-raping his wife, Acham, before killing her. “Don’t you know that Dinka and Nuer are fighting and that many Nuer were killed by Dinka in Juba?” the attackers told him.
* All victims’ names have been changed to protect their privacy and safety
Public document

Sudan: End the miscarriage of justice against Dr Mudawi and his colleague


14 June 2017
The Sudanese authorities must immediately release prominent human rights defender Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his colleague Hafiz Idris Eldoma, and halt its misguided assault on dissenting voices in the country, said Amnesty International as their trial begins in the capital Khartoum today.
Dr. Mudawi and Hafiz are facing six trumped-up charges, including ‘undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state’, both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment.
“Dr. Mudawi has continuously been harassed by the Sudanese government for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr. Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released. Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.”
Dr. Mudawi, an engineering professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested by intelligence agents on 7 December 2016. He founded and is the former director of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), and has won several human rights awards.
Hafiz Edris Eldoma, an internally displaced person from Darfur, was arrested on 24 November 2016 at Dr Mudawi’s house.
Amnesty International is campaigning for Dr Mudawi’s release as part of its Brave campaign.

Sudan: Opportunity to investigate Darfur chemical attacks must not be squandered

Press Release

Member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must demand a proper investigation into alleged chemical attacks by Sudanese government forces in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, said Amnesty International today, as the OPCW’s Executive Council begins its four-day meeting in The Hague.
In a shocking report published in September 2016, Amnesty International revealed credible evidence of the repeated use of what are believed to be chemical weapons, against civilians, including very young children, from January to August 2016.
“These brutal attacks left an estimated 200 to 250 people dead and scores more with horrific injuries, and the OPCW must fully and independently investigate them. Failure by member states to trigger the investigation would be a monumental and shameful abdication of duty,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Some states have expressed concern at this cruel use of chemical agents on civilians, but that is not enough. They must ensure concrete steps are taken to determine the full nature and extent of Sudan’s chemical weapons programme, and demand that Sudan fully cooperates with the OPCW.”
Amnesty International is calling on member states to seek clarification from the Sudanese government on the alleged chemical attacks in Jebel Marra. In the absence of this clarification, member states should request an on-site challenge inspection in accordance with Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The international community must also apply political pressure on the Government of Sudan to ensure that it permits United Nations and African Union peacekeepers, as well as aid agencies, unfettered access to Jebel Marra, to provide vital humanitarian assistance, establish operating bases and implement proactive patrols.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Seif Magango, +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or email

Sudan must end politically-motivated attacks on Darfuri students

18 January 2017

The Sudanese government must end politically-motivated and sometimes deadly attacks on Darfuri students at universities across the country, said Amnesty International today as it released a report covering a wave of attacks spanning three years.

“Dozens of students have been killed, injured and expelled from universities since 2014 for organizing around and speaking out against human rights violations in Darfur,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“This continues an appalling pattern that continues to see Darfuri students being subject to arrest, detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment, since the conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003, often compromising their continued access to higher education.”

“These deliberate and shameful attacks on students are totally unacceptable and must be brought to a speedy end.”

According to the report, the attacks are mostly carried out by agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) and student supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), also sometimes referred to as “Jihad Units.”

These deliberate and shameful attacks on students are totally unacceptable and must be brought to a speedy end.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
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On 31 January 2016, the NISS, working with ruling party-affiliated students, violently disrupted a peaceful seminar at El Geneina University organized by students affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdul Wahid Al Nur (SLM/AW), an armed opposition group. One student, Salah al-Din Qamar Ibrahim, was killed, and a number of others seriously injured. According to an eyewitness, Qamar, a fourth-year economics student, died after a security agent hit him on the head with an iron bar and a rifle butt.

In a separate incident, Salma (not her real name), a member of the Darfur Female Students’ Association at the University of Khartoum, was arrested twice in 2014 for campaigning against the forced eviction of female Darfuri students from their housing complex. During her first arrest and interrogation in March, she was insulted, beaten with batons and a rifle butt, hose pipes and sticks, and tortured with electric shocks. The second time, in October, she was drugged and raped by four intelligence officers at their offices in Khartoum.

“I woke up and found myself laying on the bed naked. All four security officers were there looking at me, and then one of them showed me a video clip of them raping me,” she told Amnesty International from exile.

Another student, Abdel, was arrested when security agents and pro-government students wielding knives, iron bars and machine guns broke up a peaceful protest by Darfuri students at El Geneina University in January 2016. He said: “They mercilessly beat me with a black plastic water pipe all over my body, on my bare back and feet.”

This suppression of Darfuri students’ rights to expression and association – as well as the interruption of their education – cannot be tolerated.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
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Amnesty International researchers carried out 84 interviews between October 2015 and October 2016 for the report, including with 52 students from 14 universities across Sudan, 32 lawyers, activists, journalists and academics.

The majority of the students were interviewed in exile, having fled abroad to continue their education after they were expelled or subjected to other forms of persecution in Sudan.

Some of them told Amnesty International that their attackers accused them of supporting armed groups fighting the government, an accusation they deny. Others said they were targeted for demanding the full implementation of a fee-exemption policy for Darfuri students agreed to by the Sudanese government during peace talks with Darfuri armed groups in 2006 and 2011.

“This suppression of Darfuri students’ rights to expression and association – as well as the interruption of their education – cannot be tolerated. The government must fully investigate and bring those responsible to account, as well as ensure effective remedies for victims, including by guaranteeing full access to reparations,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

“The government must also take measures to reduce the intelligence agency’s unfettered powers of arrest and detention, and establish a judicial mechanism to oversee it in order to stop these gross excesses.”

This report is released only days after the US government issued an order easing sanctions against the Sudanese government.

“The US ordering the easing of sanctions against Sudan must not lead to the international community letting the government off the hook for its appalling human rights record, including these horrific abuses against students and the use of chemical weapons that we reported on last September.

“The international community’s silence on rights abuses in Sudan would send a strong message that the people of Sudan don’t matter in the wider context of the fight against terrorism,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.


Thirteen years since the conflict in Darfur first broke out in 2003, security forces continue to commit serious violations of human rights in the region.

A new offensive launched in 2016 against armed opposition groups in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region has seen government forces use excessive force, including what appear to be chemical weapons. They have also carried out widespread killings, and displaced more than 160,000 people from their homes.

The Darfur situation was referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council in 2005 and an arrest warrant issued for President Omar Al Bashir in 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but he remains at large over seven years later.

Security agents have targeted students from Darfur in particular, using the armed conflict both an excuse and a mask for human rights violations.

South Sudan: Deliberate killings by government troops as UN forces fail to protect civilians

·        Guns turned on civilians
·        Targeted killings and rape
·        UN failure to adequately protect civilians
·        Call for arms embargo
South Sudanese government forces are responsible for deliberately killing civilians, raping women and girls and looting property in July in Juba, the country’s capital, Amnesty International said in a new report launched today.
South Sudanese government troops killed men from the Nuer ethnic group, raped women and girls, and carried out a massive campaign of pillage,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
These attacks by government forces are further proof of the urgent need to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, with the aim of stopping the flow of weapons, and establish an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. States should not be profiting off weapons that are being used to kill civilians.”
The report is released ahead of a field mission to South Sudan by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), scheduled to take place between 28 and 30 October.
Amnesty International is calling on the AUPSC to look into the July violence during its visit, and to take steps to ensure the establishment of an independent hybrid court able to investigate and prosecute these and other crimes.
Guns turned on civilians
The new report, “We did not believe we would survive”: Killings, rape and looting in Juba, highlights the crimes under international law committed by government forces, as well as the UN’s disappointing and inadequate response. Based on field research conducted by Amnesty International in July, August and September 2016, it details deliberate killings, indiscriminate attacks, rapes and massive looting carried out by South Sudanese forces.
Six-year-old Joy Kamisa was killed by a rocket shot from a helicopter gunship, which hit her grandmother’s house in Juba’s Gudele neighbourhood.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Nyamuch died from wounds sustained when a piece of shrapnel hit her in the head. She and several of her siblings, who lived in a protected site specifically designated for civilians (protection of civilians site) at the UN base in Juba’s Jebel neighbourhood, were hit by an explosive device as they tried to flee to the main UN base. Her siblings survived, but were injured.
Biel Gat Kuoth, 26, was sitting in his grandfather’s compound when, according to an eyewitness, a “bullet came out of nowhere” and hit him in his right leg, breaking his shin bone. The wound became infected and he died a few days later.
Lili died in her home in the Gudele neighbourhood when it was deliberately flattened by a government tank.
“It is shameful that the South Sudan government can still freely acquire weapons when it has repeatedly used them to commit crimes under international law and human rights violations. The international community must impose a comprehensive arms embargo or risk being seen as complicit in these violations,” said Joanne Mariner.
Possible human shields
The report also describes abuses by armed opposition forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO). It details how opposition fighters entered the protection of civilians sites at the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood several times on 10 and 11 July, at least once in large numbers.
It is not clear whether in doing so the fighters intended to shield themselves from attack or impede military operations – which would constitute the war crime of using human shields – but regardless of their intention, such maneuvers endangered thousands of civilians sheltering in the sites.
Another problem was the location of the SPLA-IO base in the Jebel neighbourhood adjacent to the protection of civilians site, which placed civilians in proximity to clashes between government and opposition troops.
Targeted killings and rape
Fighting began at the presidential palace on 8 July with an exchange of gunfire between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and fighters allied to First Vice-President Riek Machar. Soon government troops were targeting people based on ethnicity and perceived political loyalties.
John Gatluak Manguet Nhial, a 32-year-old journalist with Nuer facial scarring, was shot dead by a government soldier during a raid on the Terrain Hotel on 11 July, as other soldiers tauntingly shouted “Nuer, Nuer.”
A 24-year-old Dinka woman whose Nuer husband has been missing since July told Amnesty International that government troops stormed the family compound and arrested her husband and brother-in-law. When she told the soldiers that the two men worked for the government, she said that the soldiers responded that even if they worked for the government, they were still Nuer and “Nuer are rebels.”
“My life is shattered,” she told Amnesty International. “Life without him is hopeless.”
Soldiers also sought out Nuer women for rape, not only to harm them, but also to humiliate and punish their husbands. A 35-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by three soldiers said the men emphasised: “Your husband is a Nuer man, our enemy.” She said her clothes were full of blood when they finally released her.
Government soldiers also raped other non-Dinka women and girls. A member of the Kuku ethnic group described how his two sisters, ages 14 and 17, were raped by soldiers on 11 July at their family compound in Juba’s Munuki neighbourhood. He said that the soldiers, who also looted the compound, accused the family of supporting Machar.
UN failures
Amnesty International’s research reveals serious failings in the conduct of UN peacekeeping forces. Criticising the UN’s response to the violence as “disappointing and inadequate,” the new report details how UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians from being killed or raped.
A 24-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by five government soldiers just in front of the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood told Amnesty International that UN peacekeepers and private security guards could see the attack but did not come to her aid. UN troops also failed to intervene during the attack on the Terrain Hotel, during which several women were gang-raped, even though it was only a kilometre away from their base.
During the fighting, UN peacekeepers also abandoned their positions when they came under fire at one of the protection of civilians sites, POC 1, leaving civilians undefended.
UN forces put civilians at risk by their actions as well as their inaction. In one incident, UN police shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of frightened Nuer civilians at the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood.
“UN forces faltered in their mission to protect civilians, standing by as people were killed and raped,” said Joanne Mariner.
The new report also criticises the use of military courts to try soldiers suspected of abuses. It concludes that the chronic lack of real justice in South Sudan for crimes such as deliberate killings of civilians underscores the need for the speedy establishment of an independent hybrid court that will have jurisdiction over such crimes.

“These killings and systematic gang rapes must not go unpunished. The government of South Sudan must ensure that they are promptly, impartially and independently investigated and all those suspected of responsibility brought to justice in fair civilian trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

South Sudan: Continued fighting must not derail hybrid court to try war crimes

Continued fighting in South Sudan must not derail justice for crimes committed during the deadly conflict that began in December 2013, said Amnesty International and FIDH in a joint briefing published today.
The organizations are calling on the African Union (AU) Commission and the South Sudan government to urgently establish the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS).
“Thousands have been killed, women raped, entire villages destroyed, and humanitarian personnel attacked. But as world attention has focused on ending the fighting, accountability for violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity has been put on the back burner,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.
“Justice must not be delayed any further. Fresh violations should give added impetus to efforts to form the Hybrid Court.”
The peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015 provides for the formation of the court to investigate and prosecute those bearing criminal responsibility for the atrocities, but little progress has been made towards setting it up.
The Hybrid Court – which will combine elements of both domestic and international law and be composed of personnel from South Sudan and abroad – currently represents the most viable option for ensuring accountability for crimes committed during the conflict, as well as for deterring further abuses.
In the briefing, the organizations make 17 recommendations to ensure the court effectively achieves accountability in accordance with international fair trial standards. The priorities include:

  • Establishing an investigative branch to ensure evidence is collected and preserved in an appropriate manner;
  • Establishing an independent victims and witness protection unit;
  • Ensuring that victims’ rights to participate in the proceedings are guaranteed, the inclusion of South Sudanese judges and staff on the court and exclusion of the death penalty as a possible sentence. 

They also recommend that if security concerns prevent the court from being based in South Sudan, it should at least be located within the region.

“Atrocities endured by civilians in South Sudan, which the African Union has documented, must not go unpunished. The establishment of the Hybrid Court is necessary, not only to address human rights violations and abuses and crimes under international law, but also as a pillar to achieving sustainable peace,” said Arnold Tsunga, FIDH Vice President.
“The AU should build on its experience of the recent trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in Senegal to set up the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.”
The report’s key recommendations on the Hybrid Court’s makeup reflect best practices of other hybrid and ad hoc tribunals, as well as international legal standards.

South Sudan became an independent country on 9 July 2011 after decades of war, lengthy negotiations and a referendum to secede from Sudan. Two and a half years later, in December 2013 armed conflict broke out between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied to his deputy Riek Machar.
In August 2015, the two parties agreed a peace deal and later formed a transitional unity government with President Kiir at the helm and Machar as one of his two deputies.
Renewed fighting broke out in July 2016 with heavy clashes in the capital Juba and other parts of the country. Machar has since been replaced as first Vice President and fled the country.
About 2.6 million South Sudanese have fled their homes since the outbreak of fighting in 2013, with some 1.6 million internally displaced and another one million living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
South Sudan is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ICC does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed during the ongoing conflict.
Since the outbreak of the conflict, Amnesty International and FIDH, along with South Sudanese civil society, have been calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms in South Sudan.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please call:
For Amnesty International:
Seif Magango, +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or email
For FIDH (in Paris):
Arthur Manet, +33 6 72 28 42 94 or Audrey Couprie +33 6 48 05 91 57