GENEVA—South Sudan has encouraged fighters to rape women in place of wages, while children have been burnt alive, the United Nations said, calling it one of the world’s most “horrendous” human rights situations.
Grotesque rights violations could amount to war crimes, said a report on the world’s youngest country from the United Nations human rights office.
The UN findings coincided with an Amnesty International report saying government forces deliberately suffocated to death more than 60 men and boys by stuffing them into a baking hot shipping container.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan erupted into civil war in December 2013, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.
The UN said it had evidence that fighters from pro-government militia which fight alongside the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are compensated under an agreement of ‘do what you can and take what you can.’
“Most of the youth therefore also raided cattle, stole personal property, raped and abducted women and girls as a form of payment,” the report said.
It also found that civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children, had being burnt alive and hanged from trees and cut to pieces.
“This is one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
Both the government and rebel sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to purge their opponents from areas.
The UN report found that most civilian casualties in South Sudan appeared not to be the result of combat operations, but of “deliberate attacks on civilians.”
Condemning the government’s “scorched earth policy,” the UN said satellite images showed that towns and villages had been systematically destroyed.
Over a period of only five months last year, from April to September, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reported rapes in Unity, just one of South Sudan’s 10 states.
One women told investigators she was stripped naked and raped by five government soldiers in front of her children on the roadside and then raped by more men in the bushes, only to return to find her children missing.