Abuses also include beheadings and people being burned to death in a state in the Greater Upper Nile region, the commission says
United Nations experts have called on South Sudanese authorities to investigate officials accused of overseeing systematic gang rapes, some of the victims of which were girls as young as nine.
South Sudan’s Human Rights Commission said on Monday it had reasonable grounds to believe a county commissioner in oil-rich Unity state orchestrated gang rapes at a camp military.
The documented abuses also involved beheadings, rape victims forced to carry their severed heads, victims burned alive and days of brutal sexual assaults, UN experts said in a statement.
“Conflict-related rape and sexual violence in Unity State has become so systematic and is a direct result of impunity,” said commission member Barney Afako.
Investigators say sexual abuse was used as a weapon by all sides in South Sudan civil conflictwhich erupted in 2013 and triggered the largest refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
In the abuses described in Unity, multiple witnesses said the state official planned and ordered the attacks, which were led by his deputy and followed strikingly similar patterns across different areas, according to the UN statement.
In response, Michael Makuei, South Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman, dismissed the commission’s statement as a fabrication.
“They come and sit in hotels here in Juba and fabricate these bogus reports about South Sudan for a living,” he told Reuters news agency. “…I say these are false reports fabricated against the government.”
The commission said the abuses cut across all political affiliations. He said an opposition governor in Western Equatoria State was appointed to his post when he was responsible for the kidnapping, rape, torture and sexual slavery of more than 400 women and girls in 2018.
Lam Paul Gabriel, military spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) of Vice President Riek Machar, said he was not involved in the reported crimes.
“This report is misplaced because they don’t know who is fighting who in the areas where these charges are being made,” Lam said.
Attempts to reach Unity and Western Equatoria officials for comment were unsuccessful.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but two years later descended into a spiral of brutal ethnic violence and revenge killings.
A peace deal was signed in 2018, but 9.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance next year, more than three-quarters of the population, according to UN figures.
The United Nations Human Rights Council established the South Sudan Human Rights Commission in 2016 to monitor rights and make recommendations on accountability.