UN rights council calls special S.Sudan session next week

Frances Saida (2L) and Shuvai Nyoni (3L), from the UN Human Rights Office, meet displaced civilians at the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Juba, South Sudan

The UN human rights council said Friday it will hold a special session on war-ravaged South Sudan next week, following a request from 40 nations led by the United States. The session is scheduled for December 14, two weeks after UN human rights experts said ethnic cleansing was underway in the world's youngest nation, where violence has soared since a peace deal collapsed in July. The panel of three United Nations experts released their findings after a visit to several of South Sudan's hotspots and described the country as being on the brink of "catastrophe". In a statement, the rights council said the call for a special session had been backed by 16 of the body's 47 members, fulfilling the one-third support threshold needed for the session to go ahead. That group was led by the US and includes European powers like Britain, France and Germany -- as well as South Korea and several Latin American states. A further 24 observer states to the council have also expressed support, the statement said. The rights council has held 26 special sessions in its 10 year history, most recently an October 21 debate on the humanitarian disaster in Syria's Aleppo. The one-day session is likely to weigh the experts' findings, which included evidence that starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages were being used as weapons during the conflict. South Sudan's current conflict began nearly three years ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy and political rival, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. Hopes that an August 2015 peace deal would bring peace to the young nation were dashed when fighting erupted in Juba in July, leading to a surge of violence around the country characterised by divisions between the country's 64 tribes.