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UN experts deplore increased abduction cases

By William Madouk


A visiting delegation of United Nations experts has expressed concern over a rising number of abduction cases, in the country.

Members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan led by Chairperson Yasmin Sooka, from February 12 to 16, 2024, visited several locations in the country.

In her address to the media, Yasmin Sooka noted that as abductions are not a new phenomenon in South Sudan, the current increase in cases is deeply catastrophic, particularly for women and children.

“We travelled to Pibor and to Bor. While abductions are not a new phenomenon in South Sudan, the increase in abductions and the impact on women and children is deeply catastrophic,” said Sooka.

“Abductions have resulted in male family members being killed, women and taken as forced wives and sexual slaves, with some even being trafficked,” she added.

According to her, kidnapped boys suffer forced labour and further recruitment.

She implicated militias and members of organized forces as being responsible for the atrocities against the vulnerable.

“These atrocities are carried out by armed groups and also members of the armed forces,” she claimed.

She noted that authorities cited lack of capacity to respond to these mass mobilizations of armed militias.

UN Human Rights Commission documented testimonies of many women who were abducted, and where released accompanied by the payment of ransoms to abductors following the intervention of the authorities.

“Women spoke to being auctioned with their children as if they were slaves, sold off to different individuals.,” Sooka continued. “Many the Commission interviewed spoke to having children and family members separated and also being held hostage.”

Drawing painful image, Sooka emphasized that victims spoke about their pain in not being able to escape with their children and where the whereabouts of family members remain a challenge in having them returned.

“Perpetrators of these abductions need to be held accountable given that the demand and payment of ransoms constitutes corruption and criminal collusion,”

UN expert added that paying ransom also provides perpetrators with an incentive to continue abductions, deepening impunity in the country.

UN Commissioner Barney Afako said, “South Sudanese are longing for a peaceful and accountable society, where human rights are respected and protected.”

“The Agreement identifies the processes and institutions for protecting and ensuring the rights and dignity of the people of South Sudan and for overcoming political violence, and impunity,” he added.

Also, UN Commissioner Carlos Castresana Fernández cited that, “what we have learned is that the reoccurrence of gross human rights violations cannot be stopped without having meaningful and effective justice.”

“South Sudan’s judiciary is not functioning. It is severely under-resourced, lacks the means to be impartial and independent, and in most parts of the country it has no effective presence,” he added.

The team met government officials including the president and first vice president as well as survivors of human rights violations, civil society, jurists, United Nations agencies, and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The Commission will present its latest findings on the human rights situation in South Sudan to the United Nations Human Rights Council in early March 2024 in Geneva.

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