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UN alarmed by South Sudan hampering UN staffers

November 18, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Monday expressed increasing alarm over harassment and attacks on its staff by security forces in South Sudan, including the case of a woman who was beaten and briefly jailed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the council that in the last five months, the U.N. Mission in South Sudan reported 67 cases of harassment, threats, physical assault, arrest and detention of U.N. staff as well as the seizure of U.N. vehicles by the army and police.

“The behavior of security forces continues to be a cause for great concern, whether with regard to human rights abuses or incidents of violence and harassment affecting U.N. personnel, diplomats and ordinary citizens,” Hilde Johnson, the U.N. special representative to South Sudan, told the council.

“Key issues include prolonged and arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and arbitrary killings by ill-disciplined security forces and agencies, and individual incidents of interference with the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” she said.

Most of the incidents were in and around Juba, Johnson said. “This is unacceptable,” she said.

Ban’s report said a woman on the U.N. civilian staff was “severely beaten by men wearing uniforms of the South Sudan military and police security services and then detained for more than one hour at a law enforcement facility” on Oct. 19.

Johnson also told the council about continuing violence in Jonglei state. Militia leader David Yau Yau and youth from his Murle tribe have been accused of perpetrating some attacks in Jonglei, though he denies it.

Watchdog groups have recently noted some rights violations allegedly committed by South Sudan’s armed forces as they attempt to quell Yau Yau’s rebellion. Many Murle have been killed and others have fled to the bush in recent violence.

South Sudan, the world’s newest country since its founding in 2011 when it peacefully broke away from Sudan, accuses Khartoum of supporting Yau Yau in order to sabotage plans to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to the Port of Djibouti and block plans to explore for oil in Jonglei state.

The Security Council did not adopt any resolution or make any formal statement Monday. But it has moved away from keeping discussions of South Sudan’s interference with the peacekeepers confined to the back rooms, and brought the complaints into the open.

“Indeed, there are incidences involving U.N. personnel and diplomats and civilians being harassed, being mistreated on the ground,” said China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who is the president of the council this month.

South Sudan’s Ambassador Francis Mading Deng told the council that “We deeply regret any violations against U.N. ... and other international personnel. The government is seriously committed to ending these violations. Orders have indeed been given toward that end and to hold those responsible accountable,” he said.

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