By Magdalene Mukami
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) - Three legal and human rights groups released Thursday a joint report which says men belonging to military and paramilitary groups are responsible for most sexual violence in South Sudan.
‘Accountability for Sexual Violence committed by Armed Men in South Sudan’, was released by the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) and Amnesty International in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Thursday.
The 60-page document outlines the context in which such violence is occurring in South Sudan plus the nature and scale of these offenses, committed especially by armed men associated with militias or the security forces.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency at Amnesty International offices in the Kenyan capital, Antonia Mulvey, executive director of Legal Action Worldwide, said that the report also looks at solutions.
“Men in uniform, either the military or the militia, were the highest perpetrators. The report does not only look at what the problem is but whether we can find and identify other solutions,” she said.
“We look at whether there can be other avenues for legal redress outside of South Sudan to give the survivors some opportunity to access justice.”
Soon after South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, gained its independence back in 2011, the country was shrouded in civil war which claimed thousands of lives and left more than 2.3 million others displaced.
Mulvey tells Anadolu Agency that the level of sexual violence in South Sudan amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Researchers say that the people of South Sudan may have a window of opportunity to bring the perpetrators to justice now that a new transitional government has taken root.
David Deng, researcher and director of the SSLS, said that sexual and gender-based violence, particularly conflict-related sexual violence, has increased immensely in South Sudan following the outbreak of war in December 2013.
-Weapon of war-
Deng said that militants and soldiers in South Sudan have been using sexual violence as a weapon of war. This, he added, has been backed by numerous reports from the UN, African Union and human rights organizations.
“Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war by all sides in the conflict,” Deng said, adding that “reports from the conflict zones are too numerous to count.”
Deng said that the precise number of victims of sexual violence could not be determined at the present due to insecurity in South Sudan and very low levels of reporting, he also noted that “men in uniform” had been guilty of gang-raping women and girls, subjecting them to female genital mutilation and carrying out forced abortions.
The report details that in the period between April 2015 and September 2015, the South Sudan Protection Cluster documented 1,300 rapes, 1,600 abductions of women and children and 16 verified cases of grave sexual violence against children in Unity State.
The report recommends that the government of South Sudan should form a comprehensive legislation criminalizing all forms of sexual and gender-based offenses; it adds that although the government of South Sudan signed a joint communique with the UN on addressing sexual violence no implementation plan has been developed to date.