UN experts urge South Sudan to adopt zero-tolerance policy on conflict-related sexual violence

JUBA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Experts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on Thursday called on the transitional unity government to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on crimes of conflict-related sexual violence.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the team of experts, said that the zero-tolerance policy when adopted will not only see foot soldiers prosecuted in courts but also senior government officials and military commanders.

"There should be a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual and gender-based violence, and such a commitment could be concretely demonstrated by standing down or even prosecuting senior government and military officials associated with such crimes," Clapham told journalists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

The remarks came after the experts concluded their tenth visit to the country where they visited survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Yei County in Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Unity states.

The team met with government officials, representatives of civil society, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as well as members of the diplomatic community to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the commission's latest report on conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan.

Clapham said that this policy takes note of the low status of women in society, their limited participation in public institutions, and the pervasive environment for sexual and gender-based violence.

Yasmin Sooka, the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, noted that conflict-related sexual violence has recently become so systematic and extensive in the country.

"We met with many of the survivors and we interviewed them of course, many of the people were incredibly pleased to see that there is some form of accountability but as they said it is just not enough," Sooka said. "We need to see more accountability and we don't only need to see the foot soldiers prosecuted, what we want to see is that the leadership of the different armed forces hold commanders accountable because that is the only way that sexual violence in this country will stop."

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan was established in March 2016 following the outbreak of conflict in December 2013.

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