Kenyan women were subjected to sexual violence in the South Sudan towns of Rubkona and Bentiu in the second half of December, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said in a report issued on Friday.
Mass killings and gender-based violence, including gang-rapes and forced abortions, are among the human rights violations described in the Unmiss interim report. It covers the period from the start of the conflict on December 15 through the end of January.
The Kenyan women were targeted as foreign nationals, along with Ugandans, Ethiopians and Eritreans, Unmiss said, citing interviews with victims.
Opposition forces controlled Bentiu and Rubkona during the period when the rapes occurred, the report noted.
The number of people killed in South Sudan in the anti-government uprising and ensuing tribal warfare “remains unknown, although it is likely in the thousands,” Unmiss said.
Both Dinka and Nuer have committed atrocities, the report found. (READ: South Sudan rivals trade blame for new atrocities)
It said that interviews with hundreds of victims and witnesses indicate “deliberate targeting of civilians, both nationals and foreigners, in extrajudicial and other killings, including mass killings, enforced disappearances, gender-based violence such as rapes and gang-rapes, and instances of ill treatment and torture by forces from both sides of the conflict.”
The UN mission cautioned, however, that the information it has presented requires further verification.
FULL REPORT TO BE PUBLISHED IN APRIL
Investigators were unable to visit several sites of reported mass killings due to fighting in those areas or restrictions imposed by government armed forces, Unmiss noted.
In addition, “the politically charged environment has raised the prospect of distortions and biases affecting human rights investigations,” the report stated. It added that government troops' uniforms are “widely available and can be used opportunistically”.
Inquiries will continue, with a full report expected to be published in April, Unmiss said.
The report describes alleged incidents of mass killings in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal. (READ: Collecting the dead in Bor no easy task)
In the capital, government forces were said to have engaged in targeted killing of Nuer civilians in house-to-house searches soon after the conflict erupted. The origins of the fighting remain “divisive and contested,” the report noted.
Nuer civilians were killed in Juba in police stations, in the streets and in their homes, Unmiss says, citing witnesses' accounts. Sometimes victims were tied together in lines and forced to walk to locations where they were then killed, the report recounted.
In Bor, both sides committed serious human rights abuses, Unmiss said. It is possible, the report added, that hundreds of bodies of those killed in Bor have been “burned, buried or gone down the river”.
Dinka civilians were killed by the Nuer “white army” and by defectors from the army and police in Malakal, the report said.
As control of Malakal shifted, attackers focused on civilians belonging to different ethnic groups. “When the opposition controlled Malakal, Dinkas and Shilluk were targeted; when government forces were in control, civilians of Nuer origin were targeted, both for their ethnicity and because they were seen as supporting the opposition,” the report said.