Home | News    Monday 7 May 2018

Concerns over delayed verdict on S. Sudan hotel attack

May 6, 2018 (JUBA) – The verdict from the trial of a dozen South Sudanese soldiers accused of gang-raping foreigners and killing a local journalist at Terrain hotel, Juba has delayed with both the defense and prosecution expressing frustration in the whole process.

Victims say they feel forgotten, while the lawyer for the detained soldiers says his clients’ rights are being violated while the verdict is delayed without apparent reason, the Associated Press reported.

“It seems that the international community, South Sudan’s government and the organizations involved have forgotten about this horrible incident,” the Italian aid worker who was the only foreign survivor to testify told AP, adding “I had hoped this trial could have created a precedent for these types of horrific crimes.” She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution”.

Terrain Hotel, a luxurious hotel 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 Sudanese leader and former First Vice President, Riek Machar.

Humanitarian workers and UN staff alleged multiples rapes, looting and physical assault by the armed men who remained inside the hotel’s compounds for several hours, repeatedly raping ladies. A white lady from the United States later on revealed to the international media that she was raped by at least 15 soldiers.

One of the staff, an ethnic Nuer man, was also shot dead instantly in the hotel compound when his tribal identity was known by the soldiers. An American citizen who witnessed his killing said when the soldiers saw the young Nuer man among the staff he shouted “Nuer” and then shot him twice and he immediately fell to the ground.

Trial of the case began a year ago in military court for the soldiers and ended in January, with the final verdict expected a month later.

If convicted of rape, the soldiers could face up to 14 years in prison and anyone found guilty of murder, could be sentenced to death.

During the trial, however, all the accused soldiers pleaded not guilty.

South Sudan said the Terrain hotel trial showed its “commitment to human rights, the rule of law and transparency of the legal system.

“We have no information for why it’s not moving forward and I’m worried that it’s taking so long,” the lawyer for the victims, Phillips Anyang Ngong, told AP.

However, the lawyer for the accused, Peter Malual Deng Lual, called the delay a violation of his clients’ right to a speedy trial of the case.

“It would be good if we had a verdict as some of them might be freed,” he told AP.

There was, however, skepticism from the onset that the investigation into this particular attack on foreigners and that on South Sudanese would ever be addressed by the government for failure in the past.