The United Nations has described the human rights situation in South Sudan as one of the "most horrendous" in the world.
The people in South Sudan are facing "one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world, with massive use of rape as an instrument of terror and weapon of war," the UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said on Friday.
He cited a fresh UN report in which attacks against civilians, forced disappearances and rape were recorded, among other violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"The quantity of rapes and gang-rapes described in the report must only be a snapshot of the real total," Zeid said in his statement.
Armed militias affiliated with government forces "raided cattle, stole personal property, raped and abducted women and girls" as a type of payment, he said.
The UN official added that despite the grave situation, the country "has been more or less off the international radar."
Zeid blamed "state actors" for the crimes and recommended that the UN Security Council consider tightening sanctions against the country and referring the state officials responsible for the crimes to the International Criminal Court.
The 17-page UN report released on Friday is the work of an assessment team deployed in South Sudan between October and January.
Last month, a UN panel of experts had proposed sanctions on both South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar for their role in ongoing brutal war in the African country.
Machar became vice-president of South Sudan in 2011 when the country became independent, but was dismissed from office by President Salva Kiir on 23 July 2013 on charges of plotting to overthrow Kiir.
The move plunged South Sudan into crisis.