South Sudan Expels U.N. Rights Officer

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KAMPALA, Uganda -- South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan last year after decades of civil war, has expelled a United Nations human rights officer after the government objected to a report raising allegations of atrocities by South Sudan's army.

Hilde F. Johnson, the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, described the expulsion as a "breach of the legal obligations" of South Sudan's government "under the charter of the United Nations."

Human rights monitoring "must be protected," Ms. Johnson said in a statement on Sunday. "Human rights violations and discrimination were at the core of the South Sudanese struggle during decades of civil war."

The report, published by the United Nations in June, said South Sudan's military had committed widespread abuses while trying to disarm civilians in Jonglei State after a surge of ethnic violence. South Sudan condemned the report as one-sided.

According to the United Nations statement, one of its human rights officers was recently given 48 hours to leave the country.

The officer -- who was identified by a colleague outside the United Nations as Sandra Beidas -- is now in Entebbe, Uganda, according to the statement, "pending a decision on her future status."

"This expulsion raises serious concerns," said Jehanne Henry, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the region, "and we hope it does not represent a step backward for human rights in South Sudan."

"With so many challenges ahead, South Sudan needs to make sure it upholds and protects civil and political rights," Ms. Henry said.

Officials from South Sudan's Information Ministry and the president's office could not be reached for comment.

Talks over Ms. Beidas had gone all the way to South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, the statement said, but "the order has not been rescinded."

For decades, South Sudan was the scene of a brutal civil war and ethnic fighting. The United States helped broker a peace deal that led to independence. Since then, the United States has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the country and has even considered sending Peace Corps volunteers.

But the generations of civil war have left a legacy of abuse.

Diplomats, researchers and police recruits have recounted cases of sexual assaults, torture and other harsh treatment of police trainees, leading to numerous deaths. Last year, the South Sudanese police beat up a United Nations human rights official, and last week they opened fire on secondary school students, according to Reuters.

South Sudan's security forces -- a patchwork of national soldiers, local militiamen, intelligence officers and police troops -- have also been accused of abuses as the government tries to consolidate control over South Sudan's vast expanse of territory.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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