Timeline: Key investigations into atrocities in South Sudan
South Sudan made international headlines this week following the release of three new human rights reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva.
Although these reports contained new revelations, they also built on a larger body of human rights work produced since the outbreak of South Sudan's civil war in December 2013, which constitute a growing body of evidence of war crimes. We put together a timeline of some of these reports as a reference for interested readers.
Timeline of human rights reports
Mid-December 2013: Reports begin to emerge of killings of civilians in Juba after an outbreak of fighting within the presential guards. Human Rights Watch says, “soldiers specifically targeted people from the Nuer ethnic group.” Radio Tamazuj reports 'truckloads' of bodies seen in Juba.
30 December 2013: The African Union mandates the creation of a Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan to look into allegations of killings and other abuses.
16 January 2014: Human Rights Watch reports “a massacre of between 200 and 300 [Nuer] men in the Gudele neighborhood on December 16”. Researchers also documented the killing of Dinka civilians by opposition forces elsewhere, including Bor.
21 February 2014: The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) releases an interim report on abuses committed from 15 December 2013 to 31 January 2014, saying it gathered evidence of killings of at least 225 civilians, "mainly of Nuer origin", in individual incidents in Mia Saba and New Site neighborhoods of Juba on 16 December. “Extra-judicial killings continued on a daily basis until 18 December. House-to-house searches for civilians of Nuer origin were conducted.”
17 April 2014: Radio Tamazuj reports that hundreds of people are feared dead after rebel forces overran Bentiu town in Unity State. Later human rights investigations confirm the report.
8 May 2014: Amnesty International releases a report, 'Nowhere Safe: Civilians under attack in South Sudan', saying that both government and opposition forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, targeting civilians on an ethnic basis.
8 May 2014: UNMISS releases its first full human rights report since the outbreak of the civil war.
26 June 2014: The AU Commission of Inquiry releases an interim report on its work. The report says it cannot yet decide if international law has been violated in South Sudan during the civil war, noting that the commissioners have had inadequate time to complete investigations.
31 July 2014: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch release a joint report saying that a harsh crackdown on the press is related to a ‘cover-up’ of crimes committed since December 2013 including extrajudicial executions of civilians.
8 August 2014: HRW releases a 92-page report based on more than 400 interviews with survivors and witnesses, highlighting cases of killings, detentions and torture in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal.
19 December 2014: UNMISS releases a report on killings and other abuses perpetrated by opposition forces when they attacked Bentiu town on 29 October 2014.
9 January 2015: UNMISS releases findings of its investigations into the massacre of civilians the Bor protection site in April 2014 and massacres carried out by opposition forces in Bentiu the same month. The UN says the results may be sufficient for international criminal proceedings.
6 February 2015: A top South Sudanese diplomat admits that some of its forces “might have” committed atrocities and reveals that a government investigation committee headed by Justice John Wol Makec has completed its work and filed a report with President Kiir. The report is never made public.
9 May 2015: Radio Tamazuj releases a report on a militia called 'Mathiang Anyoor', tied to top politicians, which was allegedly involved in the December 2013 massacres in Juba.
18 May 2015: Human Rights Watch releases a report documenting dozens of illegal detentions being carried out in the Equatoria region by National Security Services and SPLA.
29 June 2015: UNMISS releases a human rights report on the government offensive in Unity State and the escalation of fighting elsewhere in the Upper Nile region. The report says that government troops raped girls and then burnt them alive.
22 July 2015: HRW releases a 42-page report on a military offensive in Unity State, based on more than 170 interviews in June and July with survivors and witnesses of attacks on their villages by government troops or allied militia from the Bul Nuer ethnic group.
4 December 2015: A new UNMISS human rights report finds that human rights abuses escalated rather than decreased in parts of South Sudan after the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015.
27 October 2015: The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan releases its final report concluding that “widespread and systematic” killings took place in Juba in December 2013, with violence later spreading elsewhere. The AU investigation found that the killings in Juba were carried out pursuant to a state policy and were coordinated and possibly also planned. The Commission also said opposition forces were responsible for possible war crimes including rape and killings of civilians in Bor, Bentiu, and Malakal.
15 December 2015: HRW releases a 65-page report naming more than 15 rebel and government commanders who have used child soldiers.
21 January 2016: A joint report by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights accuses SPLA troops of a campaign of mass rape against women and girls and keeping sex slaves.
30 January 2016: The UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan says that President Salva Kiir bears “command responsibility” for forces that allegedly attacked civilians in Juba, Unity State and elsewhere, and points out that he took no action when human rights reports were referred to his office. The report also names Riek Machar as having responsibility for SPLM-IO forces who committed abuses.
6 March 2016: HRW publishes a report, 'South Sudan: Army abuses spread west', documenting grave abuses in Western Equatoria, including disappearances, killings and detentions.
10 March 2016: Amnesty International publishes a report on a mass killing in Leer in Unity State, where South Sudanese troops suffocated to death 60 people in a container. Although the incident had already previously been reported by ceasefire monitors, the Amnesty report contains substantially more details and witness accounts.
11 March 2016: The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva publishes a report saying that government forces and militia carried out a systematic campaign against villages across southern and central Unity State in 2014 and 2015 as part of a “deliberate strategy to deprive the civilians... of any form of livelihood.”