*** ----> Nearly 600 civilians killed in South Sudan attacks last year: UN | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Nearly 600 civilians killed in South Sudan attacks last year: UN

AFP | Nairobi                                                         

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Nearly 600 civilians were killed after clashes erupted in South Sudan between August and December last year, the United Nations said on Friday, accusing militias of sexual slavery and indiscriminate attacks.

Tens of thousands of people in Upper Nile state in the far north were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in swamps along a river to escape the deluge of violence between armed groups.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office said investigators had documented "indiscriminate attacks, abductions, sexual violence, including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery, and the recruitment and use of children in hostilities, committed by the parties to the conflict."

"UNMISS and the UN Human Rights Office documented at least 884 civilian casualties of which 594 had been killed and 290 injured. In addition, 258 were abducted and 75 women and girls subjected to sexual violence," they said, releasing a joint report summing up the findings.

Over 62,000 civilians were displaced due to the clashes, the report said, identifying "at least 22 individuals who may bear the greatest responsibility for these violations and abuses".

"I call on the government to take immediate steps to ensure all those responsible are brought to justice," said Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, describing the abuses documented in the report as "egregious".

"Impunity will only perpetuate the precarious human rights situation in the country," he added.

Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the world's newest nation has lurched from one crisis to another, including a brutal five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.

A peace deal was signed in 2018 but sporadic bursts of violence between government and opposition forces continue to occur, while conflict between rival ethnic groups in lawless parts of the country exacts a terrible toll on civilians.

The UN envoy to the country, Nicholas Haysom, on Friday welcomed the deployment of unified forces, comprising former rebels and government troops, to the region, saying it showed that the authorities were taking steps to prevent the resumption of clashes and protect civilians.