UN rights official severely assaulted by S.Sudan police

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A top UN human rights official was assaulted by South Sudan police officers, the office of the UN rights chief said Friday, slaming the incident as "totally unacceptable."

Benedict Sannoh, who heads the human rights section of the UN South Sudan mission, was "severely assaulted in a hotel lobby in Juba by around 12 South Sudan police officers," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The police "beat, kicked and punched him in a sustained fashion while he was in a foetal position on the floor," said the spokesman, adding that the officers had the intention of searching Sannoh's room.

Following the beating on August 20, the UN offical's room was searched and ransacked, and he was detained for several hours before being released and taken to a UN hospital where he stayed for five days.

"The High Commissioner considers this incident to be totally unacceptable," said Colville.

South Sudanese authorities have said they will probe the case, and Colville said his office will "follow the conduct of that investigation closely."

He stressed that the attack not only violated UN international treaties on immunity, but also flouted an agreement between South Sudan and the international body.

"The government has a clear responsibility to ensure that human rights staff can do their work without fear and intimidation," said Colville.

© 2011 AFP

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