South Sudan soldiers jailed for rape and murder

BBC  News Africa – 6 September 2018

    This is the first time soldiers have been sentenced for committing atrocities in South Sudan

    A military court in South Sudan has sentenced 10 soldiers to jail terms ranging from seven years to life for a rampage in which a journalist was killed and foreign aid workers raped.

    The court also ordered South Sudan’s government to pay each rape survivor $4,000 (£3,000) in compensation.

    The crimes were committed during an attack in the Terrain Hotel in the capital Juba in 2016.

    A UN report accused peacekeepers of failing to respond to pleas for help.

    South Sudan’s military and rebel forces have been accused of committing numerous atrocities since the outbreak of a civil war in 2013, but this was the worst attack against foreigners. /**/ (function() { if (window.bbcdotcom && bbcdotcom.adverts && bbcdotcom.adverts.slotAsync) { bbcdotcom.adverts.slotAsync(‘mpu’, [1,2,3]); } })(); /**/

    This is the first time soldiers have been sentenced for committing atrocities in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, which only gained independence in 2011.

    What happened in court?

    The court ordered the government to give the family of local community radio journalist John Gatluak 51 cows as compensation.

    He was taking shelter in the hotel compound when he was killed.

    Two soldiers were convicted of his murder and sentenced to life.

    Three others were found guilty of raping aid workers, four of sexual harassment, and one of theft and armed robbery.

    They have been sentenced to between seven and 14 years in jail.

    A South Sudanese soldier is checked as he arrives for sentencing over the rape of foreign aid workers and the murder of a local journalist in an assault on the Terrain Hotel in the capital Juba in 2016 at a military court in Juba, South Sudan, September 6, 2018.
    Image caption A South Sudanese soldier is checked as he arrives for sentencing

    Thursday’s judgment was delivered in a military courtroom packed with diplomats, aid workers and officials.

    One accused soldier was acquitted. Another died in detention of natural causes.

    The attack took place during heavy fighting in Juba between government and rebel forces.

    More than 70 people, including two UN peacekeepers, were killed in three days of fighting.

    Five foreign aid workers were raped when troops stormed the hotel compound.

    What have people said about the verdicts?

    A lawyer representing the rape survivors, Issa Muzamil Sebit, said his clients were not «relieved» by the ruling.

    The compensation offered to them was «very embarrassing and it is an insult to the victims», he added.

    In his reaction, the defendants’ lawyer, Peter Malual Deng, said he was shocked by the verdict, and would appeal against it.

    A South Sudanese military officer is seen before the hearing of 10 soldiers sentenced over the rape of foreign aid workers and the murder of a local journalist in an assault on the Terrain Hotel in the capital Juba in 2016, at a military court in Juba, South Sudan, September 6, 2018
    Image caption The military court was packed when the sentences were handed down

    Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the convictions.

    «After much foot dragging, today’s convictions and sentences represent a first step towards ending chronic impunity in South Sudan, where both government forces and the armed opposition have committed human rights violations and crimes under international law, with complete disregard for human life,» it said in a statement.

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    How significant are the verdicts?

    By Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

    Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-45432454