04 February 2020: Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten, welcomes the release of 78 women and 50 children who had been held for many months in military bases by pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO RM) in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan. These women and children were amongst the more than 500 abducted between April and August 2018 and subjected to repeated rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage by members of the SPLA-IO RM, as reported by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2018. These women and children are currently being supported by the United Nations and its civil society partners and referred to medical and psychosocial support structures. Several women have already been identified as pregnant and have been referred to prenatal healthcare facilities.
“I welcome the release of these women and children, which follows many months of sustained advocacy and engagement by my Office, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the Senior Women Protection Advisor with Dr. Riek Machar and his local commanders”, said Special Representative Patten. “When I met with Dr. Machar last year, I expressed my grave concern about the plight of these women and children, many of whom were reportedly subjected to systematic and brutal forms of conflict-related sexual violence. As a result of our discussion, he issued a command order calling for the release of all women and children held against their will and their transfer to the United Nations and its civil society partners. This order was in line with the Unilateral Communiqué on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which was signed by the SPLA-IO in 2014 in the framework of my mandate”, Special Representative Patten added.
“This release is an encouraging and long-awaited development, in a context of prevailing insecurity and immense operational, logistical and resource constraints. The confidence built through the initial releases is encouraging other women and children to also come forward and seek support”, said Special Representative Patten. The Office of the Special Representative will build on this positive momentum to advocate for the release of the remaining women and children who continue to be held by armed opposition forces across Western Equatoria, and will sustain calls for accountability for sexual violence crimes in order to prevent and deter future violations.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Ms. Géraldine Boezio, Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict
Tel: +1 917 367 3306 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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