By Benjamin Takpiny
JUBA, South Sudan (AA) - The United Nations Commission on Human Rights urged South Sudan on Monday to investigate senior officials suspected of abetting sexual violence.
“If the government of South Sudan is serious about tackling sexual violence, it should immediately remove from office and investigate governors and county commissioners credibly alleged to be complicit in systematic rape,” said a statement issued by UN experts.
Yasmin Sooka, the chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said many women in South Sudan have been repeatedly gang raped year after year since 2013.
Sooka disclosed that the rape victims have been shunned and stigmatized, leaving them to suffer in silence while the men responsible are promoted and rewarded.
She faulted the government for only paying lip service against sexual violence by making an array of declarations, national commitments and pledges.
“It is not enough, now and again, to try a handful of junior officers without holding those in command responsible,” she said.
The commission noted that survivors it interviewed repeatedly expressed extreme fatigue with having to tell their stories again and again and nothing changing as a result.
“Victims are tired of talking,” said one man in Unity state, adding “arrest people who are killing other people first before you talk about healing.”
A report by the commission titled "Conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan" was published on March 21 this year.
South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth dismissed the commission's statement, however, saying such reports are released to tarnish the government’s image.
“I am saying these are false reports fabricated against the government. They are done to tarnish the image of South Sudan. There is nothing new on it," Lueth told Anadolu Agency by phone from the capital, Juba.
Commissioner Andrew Clapham said that this year, they have seen the most dehumanizing sexual violence in South Sudan, for which the government bears responsibility because of its failure over many years to hold individuals accountable, especially in Unity state, “where we are dealing with gross and systematic human rights violations amounting to international crimes.”
“South Sudanese are begging the international community to help them in pressuring their leaders to sanction these individuals and remove the people responsible from office. Tragically, victims ask us to speak out and say what they are afraid to say,” said Clapham.
South Sudan’s Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare said last week that it had recorded more than 6,000 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) between January and November 2021.
Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Aya Benjamin Warille said the police recorded cases of rape and physical violence across the country.
While GBV-related crimes are a persistent issue in South Sudan, delays in reporting or underreporting owing to fear and stigma exacerbate the crisis and may escalate sexual assault, particularly in remote areas.
Warille disclosed that many cases have not been reported due to stigma and cultural norms.
“Because of many reasons such as culture and stigma, many people are not reporting. This is just to give us an idea of what is happening in our country,” she said.