(Scroll down for link to full radio interview)
“Any word less than terrible would be an understatement. I think it is a terrible human rights situation and it is deeply distressing”.
That’s how the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for human rights, Andrew Gilmour, answered a question about the current human rights situation in South Sudan.
“We understand that during war, not good things happen but what is happening in this country seems well beyond what is necessary in normal combat,” Gilmour said on Friday, concluding his four-day visit to South Sudan and stressing the need to hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes.
“This is a war that has been waged against the men, women and children of South Sudan, and the only way of ending this onslaught will be when the perpetrators face consequences for what they are doing”, the Assistant Secretary-General said.
On his visit to Malakal in Upper Nile, Gilmour heard terrifying accounts about the human rights violations committed against the civilian population in the area.
“There are many stories of how men go out and they will be abducted and killed,” he said.
Equally horrifying for Gilmour were reports that women struggling to provide for their families face risks of rape on an almost daily basis.
“Those who are living the camp know that if they go out they will get raped or know that there is a strong possibility that they might get raped,” Gilmour said, adding that to put women in that position, shows how desperate they are.
“Their choices are either that they get raped or they get out and get some meagre resources in order to bring up their families.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Radio Miraya, Gilmour called for greater efforts by the government and the opposition leaders to stop their troops from carrying out human rights violations.
“It is essential that the message gets sent down to all ranks and all officers that all acts of rape, killing, torture or looting will absolutely not be tolerated in what is supposed to be a professional army.”
The senior human rights officer also underlined that his office has raised concerns about the situation of UN staff held under arbitrary detention with the government authorities. He urged the Director General of the National Security Service to put an end to the practice of arbitrary and prolonged detentions without charge, to bring detainees before the courts, and allow them access to their lawyers and family.
“I raised that very strongly in my meetings with the government. I said it is unacceptable that colleagues of ours should be held in such conditions. They have not had access to lawyers, they have not been formally charged and they have not had access to UNMISS, and that for us is unacceptable.”
Gilmour raised concerns about the restrictions of access sometimes facing the Mission when trying to protect civilians, provide humanitarian assistance and monitor the human rights situation in the country. He underlined the need for the government to always provide unhindered access for UNMISS to be able to carry out its mandate.
“UNMISS needs access, there have been many impediments to our troops and our civilians getting to places, to either bring aid or to find out what is going on there. I would appeal to those blocking our access to kindly stop blocking our access.”
Gilmour held meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Minister of Information, the Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, the Director General of the National Security Service, representatives of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, local authorities, religious leaders, UN and humanitarian partners, as well as NGOs, victims and civil society actors.
Listen to the full interview here: https://audioboom.com/posts/5621863-senior-un-human-rights-official-condemns-deplorable-rights-situation-in-south-sudan