Home | News    Thursday 6 September 2018

S. Sudan to announce verdict on soldiers accused of murder, rape

September 5, 2018 (JUBA) - The verdict and sentencing for 11 South Sudan soldiers,accused of gang raping foreign aid workers and murdering a local journalist during the country’s ongoing civil war, which could include the death penalty, will be announced this Thursday.

The verdict, expected to be attended by foreigners and diplomats, will take place in a military court eight months after the trial ended.

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.

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, was 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 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 defendants pleaded not guilty. A twelfth soldier was charged, but he died from sickness in detention earlier this year while still on trial.

Both the prosecution and the defendants will have 15 days to appeal the verdict.

The trial, which began in May last year, is widely seen as a test of South Sudan’s ability to hold its soldiers accountable for their actions.

The army is hoping the trial will act as a deterrent to other soldiers while sending a message to the civilian population that anyone who commits a crime will be punished, army spokesman Col. Domic Chol Santo, told AP.

"This is important because the army has been accused of a great deal of rape, sexual harassment and all forms of violations and it’s not part of our doctrine," he added.

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

There was, however, skepticism from the onset that the investigation into this particular attack on foreigners and South Sudanese citizens would ever be addressed by the government having failed, in the past, to do so.