Forced cannibalism, rape and “other inhumane acts”: the belligerents in the civil war in South Sudan will be held accountable before a court of African independent justice, acts of “extreme cruelty” against civilians, has said Wednesday the African Union (AU).
A Commission of Inquiry of the AU, conducted in 2014 by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, documented in a report numerous abuses fighters up to force the members of a community “to drink the blood and eating burning human flesh “victims of their ethnic group who had just been killed.
“Most of the atrocities were committed against the civilian population not taking direct part in hostilities. The places of worship and hospitals were attacked, humanitarian aid hindered the cities looted and destroyed, “it said in the report released Wednesday 342 pages.
Independent from Sudan in July 2011 after decades of conflict against Khartoum, South Sudan in December 2013 has plunged into civil war, as a result of rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar-on Cross-ethnic conflict.
Punctuated by massacres and atrocities regularly denounced by human rights organizations, the conflict has left tens of thousands dead and driven some 2.2 million South Sudanese from their homes.
In their report, members of the AU commission were made especially in the cities of Bor, Malakal and Bentiu, capitals of the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, in 2014 and found many houses, hospitals and administrative buildings burned and destroyed.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of murder, rape and sexual violence, torture and other inhumane acts (…) were committed by both parties to the conflict,” they say, while believing that there is no “reasonable grounds to believe that the genocide took place” in South Sudan.
On the basis of this report, the AU should establish an independent Court of justice, “Hybrid Court of South Sudan,” to investigate and try those responsible for atrocities since the beginning of the civil war in December 2013.
“This court is welcome. If anyone should be prosecuted, even if he is one of us, it’s a good thing. Justice must be done, “responded Gatluak Dickson, deputy spokesman Machar.
A list “highly confidential” people “possibly suspected” of committing these crimes will be presented to Council for Peace and Security of the AU (SPC), the report added.
Most of the violence mentioned in the report took place in Juba, the capital (south), where Dinka soldiers, ethnic group of President Kiir, massacred Nuer ethnic Riek Machar, and Bor (center ), where the reverse was true.
“The atrocities were widespread and carried out systematically in all the country in major theaters of violence, targeting specific groups of civilians based on their ethnicity,” he notes.
“The form of the conflict and its geographic scope suggest a coordinating element that hardly seems possible without reflection,” he adds.
The report was presented to the AU in October 2014, but was the subject of negotiations in publication for over a year, some African leaders fearing it could undermine the peace talks.
Olusegun Obasanjo was annoyed last January temptation to stifle the report saying that “the cycle of impunity must be broken.”
Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed August 26 peace agreement. But both sides have since stopped accusing each other of violating and fighting continues in parts of the country.