Human Rights Watch proposed in a report released on Tuesday that nine men, including President Salva Kiir, former Vice President turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and seven other commanders, should face sanctions in view of the mounting evidence of their responsibility for grave violations during the conflict in South Sudan.
The other seven generals — six from the government side and one from the rebels.From the government side, the six are:
Gen. Paul Malong Awan, former army chief of general staff and governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.
Lt. Gen. Bol Akot, who was in charge of the Gudele and Mia Saba areas of Juba at the time of killings of Nuer civilians in December 2013, formerly in command of the army commandos accused of abuses in Western Equatoria, currently director of the National Police Service.
Lt Gen. Marial Nour Jok, military intelligence chief since April 2014, and the superior of officers accused of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances in the Equatorias and Wau regions.
Lt. Gen. Attayib Gatluak “Taitai,” formerly head of Division 4 of the army, accused of abuses in the Unity region in 2015, and now in charge of Division 5, accused of abuses in Wau late 2015.
Maj. Gen. Matthew Puljang, who commanded army forces accused of abuses in the Unity region in 2015, accused of forced recruitment of children.
From the rebels, the rights group said the sanctions should target Gen. Johnson Olony, an opposition commander accused of forced recruitment of fighters, including children, in the Upper Nile region.
The rights group said that the United Nations Security Council, European Union, and other states should impose sanctions on the nine men, and the Security Council should also impose a long overdue, comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan.
“Four years into this crisis, gruesome crimes continue, with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands facing a man-made famine,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“It’s well past time to send a strong message to those in positions of power that atrocities will come at a price,” he added.
Human Rights Watch further said it conducted research into the crimes in both states, which have since been divided and renamed by presidential decrees, in May 2017 in northern Uganda, where the vast majority of the victims have fled to refugee settlements.
In both South Sudan locations, the report foud, government soldiers, mostly ethnic Dinka recruits deployed to fight rebels in counterinsurgency operations, committed a range of crimes against Equatorian civilians on the basis of their ethnicity, including unlawful killings, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, and widespread looting.
The report stated that the government and opposition leaders have failed to halt atrocity crimes, including killings, rape, and forced displacement, or to hold those responsible to account.
The rights group pointed out that the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan should also urgently investigate the potential criminal responsibility of all these men, both direct and on the basis of command responsibility.
Human Rights Watch stressed that the African Union should ensure continued forward momentum, even without cooperation from South Sudan’s leaders, if necessary. If a credible, fair, and independent hybrid court is not established, the watch dog said, the option of the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains and should be pursued.
“The proposed AU Hybrid Court for South Sudan raised hopes of ending the cycle of violence and impunity,” said Roth. “Yet, nearly two years later the court still does not exist. The July 21 roadmap could be a breakthrough for victims, but the proof will be in the establishment of the court.”
Government and rebel officials could not immediately be reached for comment.