Report documents "shocking disregard for civilian life" in South Sudan conflict

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Child soldiers released in South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/2015/South Sudan/Sebastian Rich

Hundreds of cases of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and other human rights abuses have been committed by all sides to the conflict in South Sudan.

The findings come in a UN report launched on Thursday, as peace talks are underway in the world's youngest nation.

South Sudan became independent in July 2011, but two years later had descended into chaos following a political impasse between the President and his former deputy.

Thousands have been killed and more than two million people displaced.

Dianne Penn reports.

The attacks reveal "a shocking disregard for civilian life," according to the report which was released by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN human rights office.

It documents at least 280 cases of conflict-related sexual violence such as gang-rape, sexual slavery and forced abortion.

There has also been a "sharp increase" in the recruitment of child soldiers, from 13,000 to 15,000, mainly by opposition forces.

Furthermore, it notes that by mid-2015, a "new pattern" had emerged in the conflict, with entire villages being razed, crops destroyed and livestock looted.

Indications are that "this may have been a deliberate strategy" by the government or the army, according to the report.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says the peace talks offer hope that there might be an end to what he described as "this perpetual cycle of bloodshed and misery."

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 56″

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