H.E. Barack Obama, The President of the United States of America
H.E. Dmitry Medvedev, The President of Russia
H.E. Hu Jintao, The President of the People Republic of China
H.E. David Cameron, The Prime Minster of United Kingdom
H.E. Nicolas Sarkozy, The President of the French Republic
H.E. Stephen Harper, Prime Minster of Canada
Ban Kimoon, UN Secretary General
May 30, 2011 (SSNA) — The undersigned members of Nuer community worldwide are hereby appealing to the world nations to authorize International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation on heinous crimes the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) committed against the civilians of four sub-counties of Bul Nuer of Unity State of South Sudan. On May 20, 2011, Mayom County commissioner, Charles Machieng Kuol, revealed to the international media that after the South Sudan forces attacked rebels at four sub-counties of Mayom and Mankien, the SPLA army burnt 8,000 civilian homesteads to ashes. Sixty five children, elderly women and men who had disabilities and were not physically able to escape were burned alive. The SPLA soldiers also killed the livestock and shot at every civilian who attempted to escape. It is reported by village chiefs that the SPLA shot to death more than hundred civilians who tried to escape. All these reports were corroborated by the United Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) after visiting the area.
It’s our duty to bring to the attention of the international community that since the SPLA army embarked on fighting the rebel forces of Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet in April, the South Sudan’s government forces have committed so many atrocities and crimes against the Bul Nuer civil population which warrant international investigation. The international community needs to know that when Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet rebelled against the Government of South Sudan, the SPLA army started to target the Bul Nuer because he hailed from that clan. The mistreatment of Bul Nuer civil population reached a deadly intensity in the beginning of May when the SPLA army engaged itself in burning villages they inhabited under the pretext that the villagers supported the rebels.
As part of its policy to destroy the livelihoods of Bul Nuer, the SPLA army assisted heavily armed Dinka cattle rustlers from neighboring Warrap state to attack Mayom County rural areas between 12—20 May, 2011 and took more than 23,000 cattle. So many civilians were displaced and left without any livestock to feed their children. In all attacks conducted by armed Dinka militias from Warrap State, the SPLA army assisted them instead to intervene to protect the civilians because the Governor of Unity State ordered the army to punish the entire Bul Nuer for the fact that Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet hails from that clan. Besides, Lt. Gen. Taban Deng Gai, the Governor of Unity State, rejected the request of Mayom County Commissioner for emergency humanitarian aid to save the lives of civilians displaced by the SPLA army and Dinka militias of Warrap State.
Since the end of the 2nd World War, the international community—through the international tribunals tasked to prosecute war crimes—established a number of principles to bring to justice those who perpetrated heinous crimes against civil populations. In the Nuremberg trial, the international military tribunal established a principle that war crimes are offences against customary international law and as such are subject to universal jurisdiction. A UN International Criminal Tribunal was established in 1990s in Arusha, Tanzania, to hear cases arising from the atrocities carried out in Rwandan genocide of 1994. Since then, it has become part of international criminal law that the international community has a responsibility to investigate genocide, torture, rape, murder, crimes against humanity and breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The tactics the SPLA army is using in punishing the civil population of Unity State is reminiscent of what the Rwandan government did prior to 1994 genocide by punishing the Tutsi civilians as a result of rebels’ advances. The SPLA army targeted the Bul Nuer clan civil population because the leader of South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) is from that clan. This is exactly what the Rwandan government did after the rebels of Rwanda Patriotic Front captured many garrisons from the government.
The crimes the SPLA army had committed against the Bul Nuer civil population so far are crimes against humanity and war crimes in violation of the Geneva Convention. The attacks the SPLA launched against innocent Bul civilians are widespread and systematic and are aimed at targeting identifiable clan. They are not random acts of violence as some quarters have been saying but systematic acts which warrant international investigation because they meet qualification as crimes against humanity that the international community has a responsibility to investigate before it is too late.
The purpose in which the international community established the International Criminal Court (ICC) was to hold individuals accountable for crimes against humanity which include extermination of civilians, torture, rape, persecution on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds. The SPLA army had committed heinous crimes against Bul Nuer civil population which could be deemed as crimes against humanity. Rome Statute of International Criminal Court states in article seven that crimes against humanity include torture; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; Attack directed against any civilian population; and forcible transfer of population.
Article eight of the said statute also states that war crimes include willful killing; willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives; Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated; and violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.
Therefore, the South Sudan Nuer International Advocacy for Human Rights (SSNIAHR) requests the international community to implement the following to bring to justice those who committed war crimes against the Bul Nuer population:
1. The UN Security Council (UNSC) must refer the abuses the SPLA committed this year against the Bul Nuer civil population to the prosecutor of the ICC. The Government of South Sudan condoned and participated in the atrocities committed against the Bul Nuer and could not be expected to bring to justice members of its armed forces who committed crimes against humanity.
2. The ICC should investigate the role South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit played in the atrocities the SPLA army committed against Bul Nuer civil population. As the Commander-in-Chief of the army, he is responsible for ordering the SPLA to attack Bul Nuer and burn several villages.
3. The ICC should investigate Lt. Gen. Nhial Deng Nhial, the Minister of the SPLA Affairs, for May 20, 2011 burning to death of sixty five children, elderly women and men in Mayom County, Unity State.
4. The ICC should also investigate Lt. James Hoth Mai, Chief-of-staff of the SPLA army; Lt. Gen. Wilson Deng, Deputy Chief-of-Operation; Maj. Gen. Gatduel Gatluak and Maj. Gen. Koang Chuol Ran-leak for the burning of 8,000 homes and the SPLA army’s deliberate killings of more than hundred civilians.
5. The ICC should investigate Governor of Unity State, Lt. Gen. Taban Deng Gai, for ordering and encouraging the punishment of the entire Bul Nuer clan including their livestock. Gov. Taban Deng is on record for ordering the SPLA army to loot and destroy villages of civilians who refused to be forcefully relocated. Moreover, he categorically rejected the request of Mayom County Commissioner for emergency relief aid so that Bul Nuer population would die of hunger and starvation for refusing his orders to relocate to other sub-counties. The Governor has come up with policies which are based on programs of realizing clan cleansing in violation of international norms.