UNITED NATIONS, -- The United Nations has named a retired Dutch general to lead an independent special investigation into the circumstances around which UN peacekeepers in South Sudan allegedly failed to respond adequately to an attack on a Juba hotel compound in which a journalist was killed and several civilians were raped.

Retired Major-General Patrick Cammaert must report back in one month on his findings after media reports detailed eye-witness and victim accounts that South Sudanese troops gang-raped, beat and robbed aid workers on July 11 at the Terrain Hotel, a popular hang-out for expatriates working in the war-torn nation.

Preliminary findings by the UN itself have caused alarm with reports that calls for assistance from the peacekeepers went unheeded for hours despite blue helmets being less than a kilometre away.

It was an attack which took place in the aftermath of fighting between the opposing armed factions in the country which subsequently led to former First Vice-President Riek Machar fleeing the capital in July.

Reports have since emerged of cold-blooded executions with evidence of soldiers gang-raping civilians.

The UN Secretary-General's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said here Monday: "The investigation will review reports of incidents of attacks on civilians and cases of sexual violence that occurred within or in the vicinity of the UN House Protection of Civilians (POC) sites in Juba. It will also determine the actions of UNMISS (Un Mission in South Sudan) and whether the Mission responded appropriately to prevent these incidents and protect civilians within its resources and capabilities at the time. In addition, the investigation will review the circumstances surrounding the attack on the Terrain Hotel and assess the Mission's response."

Cammaert, who had previously led inquiries on behalf of the UN in South Sudan, is a veteran of the Netherlands Royal Marine Corps and a former Force Commander for the UN in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Special Investigation Team will undertake a field visit to Juba to interview the relevant interlocutors. A final report will be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon within one month, the findings of which will be made public.

South Sudan's government has rejected accusation that its troops were involved in the attacks on civilians but Dujarric said the investigation would provide clarity on all matters in question.

"I think it's important that we're able to assess not only the facts on the ground but the role of the Mission, how the Mission responded, how the various contingents responded and from that obviously if there are further steps to be taken, they will be taken."

Source: Nam News Network

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