Kampala, Uganda: Rape in South Sudan is "one of the tools being used for ethnic cleansing," a UN team of human rights investigators said Friday, adding that sexual violence in the East African nation "has reached epic proportions."
"The scale of gang rape of civilian women as well as the horrendous nature of the rapes by armed men belonging to all groups is utterly repugnant," said the head of the UN investigation, Yasmin Sooka.
A UN survey found that 70 percent of the women in Juba had experienced sexual assault since the country's civil war began in December 2013, the team said.
The announcement comes after the special investigators finished a 10-day visit to South Sudan on Wednesday. The UN adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, warned last month that the country is at risk of genocide.
The UN team said on Friday they would call for a special investigation to collect evidence of rape for future legal prosecutions.
When the team visited the northern town of Bentiu, a woman described in a public meeting how she had been raped by soldiers.
"There is no stigma around rape because for us it is normal; it is happening every day to us," she told the team.
In the southern town of Yei, women told The Associated Press last month how they lived in fear of being raped by government soldiers.
After fighting in July killed hundreds of people in the capital of Juba, women said in interviews that they had been raped and gang-raped by government soldiers as they traveled to collect food outside a UN displacement camp.
There is a "growing trend of indiscipline" within South Sudan's military, according to a government report obtained by AP.