South Sudan’s justice minister dismissed UN investigators accusations that fighting and gang rape persisted in the country and called for $285 million (£218.1 million) in donations to fund peace bodies.
Paulino Wanawilla Unango was addressing the UN Human Rights Council after UN investigators found gang rape remained endemic in the north of the country with fighting continuing despite a September peace accord.
“I was a little bit surprised the chairperson went on again to state dramatically there was a serious situation of rape and gang rape, attacks and other things continuing. We don’t know about the issue of raping and gang-raping,” he said.
Unango said South Sudan needed funding for bodies set up in the peace process. The government put $1 million into a seed account for that and he appealed for international donations to cover the full $285 million budgeted.
The UN investigation, led by Yasmin Sooka, said its latest work identified 23 individuals responsible for war crimes under international law who should be prosecuted.
Sooka described mass graves and torture at military detention centres where inmates had ears scissored off, were subjected to electric shocks losing control of bodily functions and forced to hang faeces in bags overhead to avoid having to sleep in it.
“These are not random incidents,” she said. “Rape and sexual violence are used as a tactic of warfare against women and girls by warring parties to sow terror and fear among the civilian population. No one is safe – not young boys, the elderly or the disabled,” she said.
Children as young as seven made up a quarter of victims. More than 8,000 youths were recruited on a promise they could seize women as sexual slaves, Sooka told the UN Council.
Unango said South Sudanese law penalised all offenders and eight soldiers were convicted of sexual offences.
He dismissed as a “gross exaggeration” a report by aid agency MSF of 125 rapes in Bentiu over 10 days last November.