JUBA (Reuters) - A group of South Sudanese police officers assaulted the human rights director of the United Nations mission in the country last week, sources and internal documents said Thursday.
They said 10 to 14 police officers slapped, kicked and beat Benedict Sannoh, a West African, at Juba's South Sudan hotel on Saturday morning after he refused to let them examine his personal belongings, according to several UN sources.
He was then put into a vehicle and "forced to sit while other police (kicked) him," according to an internal UN security document seen by Reuters.
"We've taken note of this incident. It's a violation of our agreement with the government of South Sudan," UNMISS spokesman Aleem Siddique told Reuters.
"UNMISS is conducting an investigation into the incident."
It was not clear if the assault was related to his work as director of human rights at the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. The police spokesman was not immediately able to comment.
After being briefly detained in a cell, Sannoh was taken back to the hotel, where his room was searched. He was later taken to a U.N. hospital.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan on July 9 following a January referendum agreed under a 2005 ceasefire which ended decades of civil war.
The new nation is attempting to transform its rebel army into a disciplined security force but is frequently accused of abuses, even within its own recruitment program.
"Violations by the police in South Sudan have been a huge concern for a number of years," Jehanne Henry, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters by telephone.
"Events like this underscore the need to improve their behavior, the way they treat civilians and their accountability for abuses against civilians."
(Editing by Sami Aboudi and Sophie Hares)