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On S. Sudan, UN Simonovic Says Gudele Killings Probed, Censorship Raised

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 20 -- When the UN deputy High Commission for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic returned to New York from South Sudan, Inner City Press on January 20 asked him about press freedom and the reported killing of hundreds of Nuer in Gudele in Juba on December 16.

   Simonovic said interviews had been conducted about Gudele; it will be in his forthcoming report and further inquiry may be required into an "incident of that magnitude."

    On the Kiir government's seizure of the whole print run of the Juba Monitor newspaper, which Inner City Press raised on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access (noting that the UNMISS mission has apparently not spoken on it), Simonovic said he raised it to officials including "the vice president." That would be the new, post-Machar vice president.

   Back on December 26, when the UN's envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson took press questions, she quoted and praised President Salva Kiir for his pledges on accountability.

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about reports that "young men from the Dinka community, many of them with no military training, were given uniforms and guns from various armories around the capital, including one located at President Kiir's own compound, known as J1."

  Johnson replied that several government armories had been "broken into" and army uniforms and equipment distributed. UN (inaccurate) transcript below.  To some, it was just what a defense lawyer, in this case for Kiir, would say. But in a real trial the question would be, Did you report them stolen at the time?

  In any event, it seems strange for Johnson at this time to be quoting with praise Salva Kiir, and speaking favorably of government control of Bor, which was re-taken by force. Does the government do that elsewhere (other than, for example, Sri Lanka)?

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about threats by Kiir's supporters to re-take Bentiu by force. Johnson said she hopes talks can proceed in tranquility and that option is not pursued. It fell short of saying, as the UN does elsewhere, don't re-take by force.

  One wanted to ask other questions, about the status of Yida camp (the UNHCR person to whom South Sudan OCHA referred Inner City Press is, who knew, out of the office from December 9 to January 9), of the UN base in Yuai from which the UN withdrew peacekeepers and of other UN facilities Inner City Press has asked in writing about, in for example Aweil, and in Kuacjok.

  Johnson was asked at the end of her briefing about reports UNMISS helped and or sheltered armed rebels. Her response, partially cut off by the understandably choppy audio from Juba, seemed limited to non-governmental fighters.

So Inner City Press has asked the UN Spokesperson, adding to the other questions left unanswered now for 120 hours, that while Johnson "spoke of disarming those who enter UNMISS bases... please state if this applied to the 27 SPLA fighters whom UNMISS spokesperson Joe Contreras was quoted by Reuters as saying sought shelter with with UNMISS in Rubkona, across the river from Bentiu, and separately state if UNMISS has sheltered SPLA fighters anywhere else in the past two weeks."

Watch this site.

Update: the UN put out a transcript with various inaccuracies, some intentional, such as leaving in "Reuters," "AP," "UNCA" (UN's Censorship Alliance) and even "Huffington Post contributor" -- but censoring out from the below "Inner City Press" and "Free UN Coalition for Access." They call it censorship, compare to UN video here at Min 20:39

[This was explicitly by Inner City Press & FUNCA] Question: I wanted to ask you about Bentiu. Itís been said that President Kiirís forces had said they are going to retake or could have already retaken it. Has it been? Whoís in control in Bentiu and whatís the Missionís position in terms of any retaking or any reentering by force? And also, Iím sure you saw in The Guardian December 23rd piece, hey said that President Kiir had spoken on accountability but in the middle of that article they said that, quote ďyoung men from the Dinka community many of them with no military training were given uniforms from armories, including one located in President Kiirís own compound known as J1Ē. And I wanted to know what do you make of that? Is your Mission in a position to look into this allegation against the President or at least arms within his compound. Do you think itís possible that some of these atrocities have been committed by the Government or with the Governmentís knowledge? In which case, what will your Mission do about it? Thank you.

Hilde Johnson: Well, first in regard to Bentiu, itís too early to sayÖ[inaudible]Öthere are two forces present and there might be attempt at retaking the city. However, what we are now hoping for is a political track can be established as soon as possible, which in that case would imply, we hope, that talks would be taking place in tranquility and that these operations would not be pursued. This is too early to say. We are waiting for the outcome of what has happened amongst the IGAD heads of State and their consultations.

As regards to what has unfolded in terms of human rights violations, abuse, and atrocities that seem to have been committed. All of those issues, and all of those allegations and reports, as I said, are being looked into by our human rights division, and they will investigate and verify. I may also add that during the night of 15 to 16 December several of the armories of the forces of the Government, whether Presidential Guard or SPLA, were broken into and a significant number of uniforms and arms were stolen and taken. So that is an important factual piece of information that also needs to be included in any of the investigations going forward. But it is far too early to assess anything in terms of possible perpetrators or indeed responsible actors. We need to see a solid verification and investigation process take place.


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