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OHCHR - South Sudan

OHCHR - South Sudan

26 August 2011

Subject: South Sudan


Attacks in Jonglei State

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is very concerned about the recent fighting between the Murle and the Lou Nuer communities in Uror County, Jonglei State, South Sudan, which has reportedly resulted in at least 600 deaths, more than 850 wounded, the kidnap of more than 200 children, the burning of more than 7,900 houses and up to 26,000 displaced since 19 August 2011.

The High Commissioner calls on the Government of South Sudan to take necessary steps to restore security in Uror County and to ensure the protection of civilians affected by the violence. She welcomes the Government of South Sudan’s response in setting up an investigative committee and the deployment of SPLA troops to act as a deterrent to further violence. The High Commissioner urges the Government to work with both communities to promote reconciliation and reminds the Government of its responsibility to protect, and to ensure good governance, the rule of law and the upholding of human rights, as well as to take necessary action to prevent inter-communal clashes and general instability throughout the country.

The UN remains committed to working with the Government of South Sudan to face the serious challenges it faces in building institutions that strengthen rule of law and respect for human rights. South Sudanese civilians are often the first victims of institutional shortcomings -- including an acute lack of properly trained South Sudanese police and military.

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Attack against UN staff member in Juba

In a separate incident in South Sudan, the High Commissioner has been shocked and outraged to learn of a recent serious assault against the Chief of UNMISS Human Rights Section and her Representative in South Sudan, Mr. Benedict Sannoh. Last Saturday (20 August), Mr. Sannoh was severely assaulted in a hotel in Juba by around 12 South Sudan police officers, who beat, kicked and punched him in a sustained fashion while he was in a foetal position on the floor. He was subsequently detained for several hours, before being released and taken to a UN hospital, where he remained for five days. He is now out of the country receiving further medical treatment.

This attack against a UN staff member in South Sudan is a serious violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UN and South Sudan, as well as international treaties governing UN privileges and immunities. Other incidents of harassment and intimidation of UN staff members by security forces have also been reported in South Sudan in recent months.

The High Commissioner has been in close contact with the leadership of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson, has raised this very serious incident directly with the President and Foreign Ministry. We understand the authorities have indicated they will carry out an investigation.

The High Commissioner considers this incident to be totally unacceptable, and we will follow the conduct of that investigation closely. The Government has a clear responsibility to ensure that human rights staff can do their work without fear and intimidation. Unless those responsible are held to account, this will send a chilling message to all those working in the defence of human rights in South Sudan.

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