Both parties in the war in South Sudan have used rape and extreme sexual violence resulting in the death of girls and women, according to a report based on eyewitness accounts by Amnesty International.
In its report ‘Nowhere Safe: Civilians under attack in South Sudan”, Amnesty International describes how government and allied forces used sexual violence in Unity State, Malakal, Juba and Bor, while opposition forces did in several reported cases in Malakal and in Bor.
Especially in southern Unity State, government forces together with allied Darfuri JEM rebels are reported to have used rape against Nuer women while entirely destroying Leer, the hometown of the leader of the opposition forces Riek Machar. The forces burnt all houses and destroyed all the churches, the MSF hospital and the NGO compounds.
The report describes how from the end of January through to March, government forces, including allied Darfuri forces, looted property, raped and killed civilians in villages in Koch, Mayendit and Leer counties.
“I was three months pregnant, but because I was raped by so many men, the baby came out. If I had refused those people, they would have killed me. Nine men raped me,” said Nyawal was among a group of 18 women who were raped in Palop.
She said soldiers forced large wooden sticks inside the vaginas of seven women who refused to be raped. All seven died.
Another woman described to researchers how her ten year-old sister-in-law in Gandor, Leer county, was raped by ten men. She and another 10-20 women were raped in the village during the first week of February.
Nyaruot was hiding in the trees during an attack on Gandor, and saw four women and one girl being raped by both SPLA and Darfuris. She said that one of the women was pregnant: “She was around 17 years-old. We saw seven people rape her outside, and when they finished, she lost her baby. She was crying, and saying ‘leave me, you're my people, we're one country.'”
Bol saw ten women being raped by armed Darfuris in Gandor around 5 February, some of them at gunpoint. He believes that up to 28 women and girls were raped during the attack.
Susan, a survivor of sexual violence living in the Thong Ping protection site told Amnesty International that a large group of soldiers came to her home in the Eden neighbourhood of Juba on the morning of 18 December 2013.
They took her and nine other women to an empty clinic where the soldiers were staying and raped them. Fifteen soldiers raped her over a period of approximately three hours.
The soldiers subsequently shoved sticks up the vaginas of six of the women, causing extensive bleeding. She believes that these six women died as a result of their injuries.
Michael Mayen, who led government efforts to collect and bury bodies after the government recaptured Bor in mid-January, said that 11 of the bodies he counted showed signs of sexual violence. Three of them were found in Hai Salam, and another three in Leiudier.
One of the dead women found in Leiudier had a piece of wood inserted in her vagina. Six dead women found in St. Andrew's Church, he said, were naked below the waist. They were victims of the White Nuer army.
Government soldiers have captured women near the Bor protection site on multiple occasions. Two Nuer women, aged 22 and 28, said they were going to a pool three minutes' walk from the protection site.
“UNMISS said that we shouldn't pour dirty water inside the camp, so we went outside…Usually we would be given an UNPOL escort to accompany us, but that day, UNPOL was busy and could not come.”
Eight armed soldiers in military uniform approached them in a pick-up truck, and got out of the vehicle. “We tried to run, but they caught us and put us in their car,” one of the women said.
They were both taken to a forest behind the airport, where they were each raped by four soldiers.
In Malakal by the end of February, several hundreds of people were sheltered at Christ the King Church. At least four girls staying at the church were abducted by opposition forces the night of 25 February and raped nearby. Julia recounted that three soldiers took her 13 year-old daughter and two other girls.“I ran after her. They hit me with the butt of a gun and I fell down. They also hit me on the back.”
The soldiers took her daughter to a house, and raped her. She managed to reunite with her mother the next day.
A 39 year-old woman was captured by government soldiers on 2 March when she left the protection site to wash her six-month-old daughter's clothes. She was taken to Tibek on foot and then driven to Malualchat in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
She said she wasn't raped or killed because she told the men that she had a small child. “They asked me how they could believe me, and I showed them the milk in my breasts.” One of the soldiers told her that if not for her baby, she would have been killed.