October 3, 2012 - 17:14 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - South Sudan's security forces are shooting, torturing and raping civilians in the country's east, rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday, Oct 3, urging the government and United Nations to do more to stop the abuses.
The army (SPLA) did not respond to numerous phone calls but has previously played down accusations its soldiers have attacked civilians during a disarmament campaign in Jonglei state, saying there have only been isolated violations, Reuters reported.
Soldiers and police have been fanning out across Jonglei - home to a huge, largely unexplored oil field - to try and collect thousands of weapons left over from decades of civil war that are now fuelling tribal clashes and a growing rebellion.
The impoverished country, which declared independence from Sudan in July 2011 under a peace agreement, is still struggling to contain ethnic and political tensions across its vast territory.
Amnesty said it had evidence civilians, including children as young as 18 months, had been tortured and abused during the disarmament campaign.
Security forces had looted property and destroyed crops, the group said, adding it had received "credible reports of rape and attempted rape by SPLA forces".
"Far from bringing security to the region, the SPLA and the police auxiliary forces have committed shocking human rights violations and the authorities are doing very little to stop the abuse," Amnesty International's Africa Director, Audrey Gaughran, said in the statement.
The group said the United Nations mission in the country should do more to protect civilians and "(deploy) peacekeepers in areas where there is significant potential for violations by the SPLA".