Amnesty International on Thursday alleged that a steady flow of military weapons from China, Sudan and Ukraine has triggered indiscriminate attacks by both the South Sudanese Armed Forces and armed Opposition groups.
In a new briefing on 'Overshadowed Conflict, Arms supplies fuel violations in Mayom County, Unity State,' Amnesty examines the impact of irresponsible supplies and misuse of weapons, munitions and armaments resulting in civilian casualties and thousands of people being displaced in the new north-eastern African country.
Scores of people have been killed or injured, had their homes destroyed, or have been forced to flee due to indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by the South Sudanese Armed Forces, known as the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and the armed Opposition group, the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), in Mayom county, in South Sudan's Unity State in 2010 and 2011.
Ahead of the first anniversary of South Sudan's independence and just days before the world's governments gather for the crucial Arms Trade Treaty negotiations at the U.N., the London-based human rights watchdog called for a strong and robust treaty with rules to end irresponsible arms transfers to those likely to use them for serious violations of human rights and war crimes.
Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty's Africa Director, urged governments to "immediately stop supplying South Sudan with conventional arms which have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law until adequate systems of training and accountability are in place."
Amnesty has documented serious human rights violations committed by all sides using an array of weapons, including Pristine 2010 Sudanese-manufactured ammunition used by the armed Opposition, Chinese manufactured anti-vehicle mines freshly laid on Unity State's roads, new 2010 model mortar shells, likely of Sudanese manufacture, used by armed Opposition groups that indiscriminately shelled civilian areas, and the first confirmed combat use of Ukrainian-supplied T-72 main battle tanks by South Sudan armed forces to indiscriminately shell civilian settlements.
There have been repeated incidents of civilians being killed or injured during fighting between the SPLA and the SSLA. Residents described a pattern of indiscriminate firing and shelling.
The SPLA appears to justify attacks against civilians and their property because the communities have shown support for the armed Opposition.
Ukrainian supplied T-72 main battle tanks are entirely unsuitable for urban fighting as they cannot distinguish between military and civilian objects in urban areas.
Amnesty says clandestine delivery of these battle tanks from Ukraine to South Sudan in 2009 involved transfers via Kenya and Uganda and included shipping companies from Germany and Ukraine, and UK and Isle of Man-registered shell companies.
Amnesty quoted a former senior SSLA member as telling them that his forces had received significant numbers of Kalashnikov-type assault rifles "new from the boxes," as well as ammunition, light and heavy machine-guns, B10 recoilless rifles plus mortars.
Evidence suggests that ammunition used by SSLA is manufactured in Sudan and rifles include new Chinese-manufactured Type 56-1 rifles. Many civilian deaths reported by residents were due to gunshot wounds sustained after intense fighting inside major towns in the region, including Mayom, Mankien and Riak.
Over the past 12 months the SSLA has also laid Chinese made anti-vehicle landmines on major roads in Unity State. Scores of civilians have been killed or injured in the past year due to the laying of these mines by the SSLA and this also increases food and fuel costs as the mines hamper access in the region.
by RTT Staff Writer
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