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South Sudan: Immediate UN arms embargo needed

The UN Security Council must ensure that all countries immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo and halt any further flow of weapons into South Sudan, said Amnesty International, as fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar continued to threaten civilian areas in the capital, Juba, today.

Over the last two days, artillery shells have landed in civilian neighbourhoods near Vice-President Riek Machar’s base in Jebel neighbourhood, injuring civilians and damaging their homes.

Amnesty also called on warring parties in South Sudan to take all possible measures to protect civilians, including thousands of displaced people currently sheltering at UN bases. Amnesty has been lobbying for a halt to arms transfers to South Sudan since the conflict first erupted in December 2013.

The international community must also impose targeted sanctions against civilian and military officials reasonably suspected of responsibility for crimes under international law or human rights violations, the organisation said.

The recent clashes which began on last Thursday, have left hundreds of people dead. Many civilians have not left their homes in days and are running out of food and water. Others have fled to churches and to UN displacement sites, which have themselves come under artillery fire in recent days.

Elizabeth Deng, Amnesty’s South Sudan Researcher, said:

“For peace to stand a chance, the UN Security Council must ensure that all countries halt any further flow of weapons into South Sudan by immediately imposing a comprehensive arms embargo.

“The embargo, which should cover the supply, sale and transfer of weapons, ammunition and military vehicles, will reduce the likelihood of all disagreements resulting in widespread death and destruction.

“International law is clear – both sides must refrain from attacking civilian objects, including UN sites where desperate civilians are sheltering. The rival parties must remove military objectives from civilian areas and work with the UN Mission in South Sudan to provide civilians with safe passage out of frontline areas.

“Attacks on civilians and UN personnel delivering humanitarian aid are violations of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.”

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