By The Genocide Report
Since conflict began in South Sudan, the number of sexual and gender based violence cases occurring across the country have increased dramatically, the majority of which have been perpetrated by security or militia groups according to a joint report released by the South Sudan Law Society and Legal Action Worldwide.
The report indicates that government forces, rebel militia and unidentified uniformed men have committed rape, gang rape, sexual assault, sexual slavery, stripping, abduction, castration, and forced abortion. Victims include men, women and children, mostly in Unity State.
David Deng, the research director at the South Sudan Law Society says that evidence supports that sexual violence is used to punish communities.
According to the South Sudan Protection Cluster, between April and September 2015, there were 1,300 rapes and 1,600 abductions of women and children. However, Deng says that verifying the numbers is difficult.
Since there is no formal justice system to speak of in South Sudan, conflict zones are not equipped to handle sexual violence cases. Sexual violence is often considered community, rather than individual issues. Traditional justice systems are not permitted to hold rebel or security forces, much less governments accountable. The end result is sexual violence with impunity and the victims never see justice.
According to Deng, there has never been an effective prosecution for sexual violence in South Sudan.
In order for there to be judicial accountability and the perpetrators held responsible, there has to be meaningful legal and institutional reforms in South Sudan. There needs to be proper vetting of security forces and a way for survivors to seek justice. A good start would be the creation of a hybrid court with the authority to try war crimes.
Featured Image: A woman and baby shelter in a makeshift tent at the Kalma refugee camp. Photo: Associated Press