UN rights chief denounces ‘shameful’ abuses in South Sudan
His warning came as South Sudanese government forces mounted air and ground attacks after pushing back rebels from the key oil town of Melut in the northern Upper Nile State.
“For more than 17 months, women, men and children have been senselessly suffering through an entirely man-made catastrophe, living in the most inhumane conditions,” Zeid said.
He said a surge in fighting in recent weeks had added 10,000 more to the estimated 60,000 people already displaced and lodged in UN sites within the country.
Two million people had “been robbed of their homes, their livelihoods, their security, having lost family members to death and forced recruitment.”
“And now, over the past few weeks, the opposing parties have actually managed to make a terrible situation much, much worse,” he said.
Fighting broke out in December 2013 when South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country.
The government assault that began in late April is one of the heaviest offensives in the 17-month-long civil war and has cut off over 650,000 people from aid, with gunmen raping, torching towns and looting relief supplies, according to the UN agencies and other aid organisations.
Rebels last week launched a major counter-attack, including an assault on Malakal, the state capital of Upper Nile and the gateway to the last remaining major oil fields.
Zeid said successive commitments to end the hostilities had been flouted and deplored a “shameful lack of justice and accountability for victims of such gross violations in South Sudan.”
“Such persistent impunity has left many with unresolved grievances that are easily mobilised for renewed violence and revenge attacks,” he warned.
“The fight against such impunity must be a priority if any peace in South Sudan is to hold,” he added.
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