South Sudan’s military court on Thursday handed jail sentences to 10 soldiers accused for raping foreign aid workers and murdering a local journalist in the capital, Juba.
The incident in Terrain Hotel, a luxurious facility accommodating foreigners and employees from the United Nations agencies, was attacked by suspected government soldiers loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir on 11 July when fighting erupted between rival forces of the South Sudan’s former first vice president, Riek Machar.
12 soldiers were on trial, but while one was freed for lack of evidence charged, another died under unclear circumstances during the trial.
Thursday’s ruling has sentences ranging from seven years to life. The court also ordered the government to pay damages to the victims.
Each of the rape survivors are to be given $4,000 in compensation, the court ordered and that government pays 51 heads of cattle to the slain journalist’s family.
Thursday’s court session in the South Sudan capital was delivered in a courtroom, which had several diplomats, aid workers, among others
At least five foreign aid workers were raped when government troops entered the hotel premises, victims of the incident testified.
Meanwhile the military court ordered government to pay more than $2m in damages to the Terrain Hotel proprietor, Mike Woodward.
The campaign group, Amnesty International lauded the court ruling.
“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,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
These convictions, he added, must lead to the crucial next step of ensuring justice for all crimes committed in the ongoing armed conflict, by first and foremost, setting up the much-delayed Hybrid Court for South Sudan agreed in 2015.
“South Sudanese leaders must keep up the momentum towards ending the climate of impunity in the country,” stressed Magango.
The South Sudanese government had earlier said the Terrain hotel trial showed its “commitment to human rights, the rule of law and transparency of the legal system”.
The trial of the soldiers was seen as a test for the young nation facing a bloody civil war, which has seen tens of thousands of people killed and over 4 million displaced.
(Original post ST)