Human rights groups urge South Sudan arms embargo


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Human rights groups urged the United Nations Security Council to place an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan in order to reduce unlawful attacks on civilians.

Such a ban would send a strong message that international community will not enable fighters who have shown a complete disregard for the laws of war, 30 human rights groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent Thursday.

The Security Council is considering a request from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to place an arms embargo on South Sudan and to ratchet up sanctions on individuals accused of hindering the peace process.

The letter points out that during five days of fighting between forces loyal to the president and the vice president, civilian neighborhoods and U.N. compounds were shelled.

Speaking on Thursday, Ban said that while the fighting in South Sudan has stopped for the time being there was a real danger of it restarting.

“In the meantime, we are very concerned that there is continuing violence, sexual violence against women and girls, and attacks against United Nations humanitarian facilities, and looting of humanitarian assistance which should be used for many hundreds of thousands of people,” Ban said.

He accused fighters of looting World Food Program warehouses, stealing food meant for 220,000 people.

“This is totally unacceptable. We ask for accountability and those perpetrators should be held accountable,” Ban added.

Also on Thursday, a U.N. human rights expert called on the government of South Sudan to release journalist Alfred Taban who was arrested on July 16 by National Security Service agents.

Taban, who edits the English-language Juba Monitor, was arrested a day after the publication of an editorial calling for both President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar to step down for failing to implement the Aug. 2015 peace agreement.

“It is crucial for a country seeking to establish peace and stability that it takes active steps to encourage freedom of expression for everyone,” said David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. “Any pressure against journalists based on the content of their reporting represents regressive steps that South Sudan cannot afford to take.”