Cases of sexual and gender based violence, mutilation of bodies, burning of bodies, draining human blood from people who had just been killed and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink the blood or eat burnt human flesh are among a long list of atrocities committed during South Sudan’s continuing civil war, according to the African Union Commission Report on South Sudan (AUCISS).
The report, published on Tuesday, written more than a year ago but was held back because AU officials feared that it could jeopardize the peace negotiations that had been going on despite demands for its immediate publication and dissemination.
Read: Executive summary
The African Union investigators, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, found that the conflict began Dec. 15, 2013.
“The Commission found that most of the atrocities were carried out against civilian populations taking no active part in the hostilities. Places of religion and hospitals were attacked, humanitarian assistance was impeded, towns pillaged and destroyed, places of protection were attacked and there was testimony of possible conscription of children under 15 years old.
The stories and reports of the human toll of the violence and brutality have been heart-wrenching: reports of people being burnt in places of worship and hospitals, mass burials, women of all ages raped; both elderly and young, women described how they were brutally gang raped, and left unconscious and bleeding, people were not simply shot, they were subjected, for instance, to beatings before being compelled to jump into a lit fire. The Commission heard of some captured people being forced to eat human flesh or forced to drink human blood. All these accounts evoke the memories of some of the worst episodes of earlier human rights violations on the continent, including in South Sudan itself.”
However, “The Commission finds that based on the information available to it, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the crime of genocide has occurred.”
The AU Commission proposes the establishment of an Ad hoc African Legal mechanism under the African Union to try those who bear the greatest responsibility at the highest level to account.
“The Commission recommends the establishment of an ad hoc African legal mechanism under the aegis of the African Union which is Africa led, Africa owned, Africa resourced with the support of the international community, particularly the United Nations to bring those who bear the greatest responsibility at the highest level to account. Such a mechanism should include South Sudanese judges and lawyers.
The Commission has identified possible alleged perpetrators that might bear the greatest responsibility using the standard of ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that gross violations of human rights and other abuses have occurred during the conflict.”