A senior South Sudanese official rejected criticism by the U.N. Human Rights Council that his country is a serious violator of human rights.
Samuel Luate Lominsuk, director-general for Multilateral Affairs of South Sudan, praised the decisions and compromises made by his government, which he said enabled the formation of a national unity government.
His government is negotiating peace with the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, he said, adding that peace talks with Sudan in the capital, Juba, are making progress.
Lominsuk said efforts to improve the human rights situation in his country are moving ahead, which belies the U.N. council's depiction of South Sudan as the worst country on Earth in terms of human rights violations.
"My government would like to reiterate that South Sudan has deep-rooted traditions and norms, which compel us to respect one another in all aspects of life," he said. "Consequently, anyone who commits a crime, touching a woman's dignity, is severely punished."
A report published last week by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan describes what it calls the widespread and pervasive sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
The report accuses both the government and opposition of deliberately starving the population as a tactic of war. The U.N. commission is scathing in its criticism of the government, which it says is riddled with corruption.
The South Sudanese government did not respond to the report at the time of its release, and Lominsuk did not acknowledge the report or its findings during his address to the council.
Instead, he stressed the positive developments and improvements in the human rights situation in his country. He also called on the council to remove South Sudan from Item Four, which looks into human rights abuses in specific countries deemed to be the worst violators.
Countries that will come up for review under that item during the month-long session include North Korea, Myanmar, South Sudan, Iran, Burundi, Syria and Venezuela.