- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 23, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a retired Dutch general on Tuesday to lead an independent investigation into allegations that U.N. peacekeepers did not take action to prevent multiple cases of abuse and sexual violence against civilians and foreigners in South Sudan’s capital.

The U.N. chief ordered the independent probe last week after expressing alarm at preliminary findings from the July 11 attack on a compound popular with foreigners in Juba, and reported rapes outside the U.N.’s main camp in the capital, Juba, where thousands of people have sought refuge from fighting.

The investigation team led by retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert will review reports of attacks on civilians and sexual violence in or near the U.N. compound and will determine whether U.N. peacekeepers responded appropriately to prevent these incidents and protect civilians, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The investigators will also assess the circumstances surrounding an attack on the compound popular with foreigners, the Terrain Hotel, and assess the U.N. response, Dujarric said.

The team will visit Juba and submit a report to the secretary-general within a month, which will be made public, he said.

The Associated Press reported last week that South Sudanese troops went on a nearly four-hour rampage through the Terrain Hotel compound in one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in the country’s three-year civil war.

Several witnesses told the AP that soldiers shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people and carried out mock executions.

Separately, several witnesses also told the AP that U.N. peacekeepers in Juba did not stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.’s main camp last month. The violence came days after fighting erupted in Juba between opposing army factions.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the fighting and over 2 million people were displaced.

A peace deal reached in August 2015 has been threatened regularly by fighting. Last week Machar, who was fired by Kiir as vice-president in a new unity government, fled the country. On Tuesday, Machar re-emerged in neighboring Sudan, which announced that he had needed “urgent medical attention.”

Cammaert recently led a U.N. investigation into clashes on Feb. 17-18 at another U.N. site in Malakal where civilians have taken refuge from fighting. He has also served as the U.N. peacekeeping department’s military adviser, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia-Eritrea, and U.N. commander in Congo’s volatile east.

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