The UN on Sunday complained of “horrendous acts of violence and utter disregard for human life and dignity” in some areas of South Sudan, but stopped short of confirming reports by Western media that up to 10,000 might have been killed since the fighting erupted about almost a month ago.
A press release issued by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) pointed out that it noted media reports estimating that up to 10,000 people may have been killed since the conflict in South Sudan started on 15 December, 2013.
The release said on 26 December, 10 days into the conflict, UNMISS estimated that 1,000 people may have been killed as a result of the conflict, arguing that this was based on UNMISS’ initial monitoring and investigations in Juba and other relatively more stable locations where its Human Rights Officers and other staff were able to access, investigate and document the unfolding developments.
‘’After two weeks of subsequent violence, characterized sometimes by intense fighting with heavy weapons, there are clear indications that the casualty count must be much higher.” the release said.
It added that while UNMISS has continued to closely monitor the human rights situation, interviewing witnesses and following leads, “the Mission is not at this stage in a position to establish and verify the exact numbers of casualties.”
The release quoted Hervé Ladsous, the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations observed on 9 January, as saying 'at this juncture, we are not able to provide final figures. We know it will be very substantially in excess of the 1,000.'
However, the release said despite serious security constraints due to the fighting in Bor and Bentiu which has restricted access by UNMISS Human Rights Officers, during the course of last week, UNMISS started interviewing victims and eyewitnesses among displaced people from Bor who have arrived in Juba and Awerial County in neighbouring Lakes State.
UNMISS Human Rights Officers have also been able to return to Bor on 9 January.
“Preliminary indications from these interviews and investigations in Bentiu and Malakal contain horrific allegations of atrocities by anti-government forces against civilians and surrendering soldiers, including summary executions, torture, sexual violence and ethnically targeted killing,' the release underlined.