UN accuses South Sudan army of raping girls and burning them alive

The United Nations has release a report describing the brutal treatment of civilians by government forces in South Sudan, accusing the country's army of raping and burning girls alive in their own homes.

In a statement released today, the UN mission in Sudan (UNMISS) said that during their most recent campaign in April in which the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) fought against opposition fighters, the fighting reached a new level of "brutality and intensity", and that "the scope and level of cruelty that has characterised the reports suggests a depth of antipathy that exceeds political differences."

UNMISS interviewed 115 victims and eyewitnesses in order to compile their new report about the actions of the South Sudanese forces in the northern state of Unity,and were told that the SPLA had killed civilians and destroyed villages, leaving at least 100,000 people displaced.

The investigators chronicle the widespread human rights abuses which reportedly took place, including the disturbing allegations regarding the abuse of women and girls. They recorded at least nine cases where "women and girls were burnt in tukuls [huts] after being gang-raped".

Other distressing incidents including one report that "government forces gang-raped a lactating mother after tossed her baby aside", while soldiers tortured another woman for information by forcing her to hold hot coals.

UNMISS also reported that their team was at times barred from entering certain areas by the SPLA. The army has not yet commented on the accusations of violence, but a military spokesman told Al-Jazeera that they believe there needs to be further proof for the report's claims. "Our role as an army is to facilitate humanitarian deliveries and access for civilian protection," he said. "If the UN has been denied access, they have the right to present those claims to the SPLA command."

The report focusses solely on SPLA forces and does not cover the actions of the opposition forces.

South Sudan is the world's youngest country having been officially established in 2011, but it has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for more than two years as the president Salva Kiir battles his former vice president, and now rebel leader, Riek Machar.

So far, seven ceasefire agreements have been agreed on and signed before being broken by one side or the other. Kiir and Machar met in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi this weekend to try and strike another peace deal, but the talks were unsuccessful.