13 South S udan soldiers face trial f or rape, murder
NAIROBI — Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers accused of raping five foreign aid workers and killing their local colleague appeared before a military court yesterday, a case seen as a t est of the government’s ability to try war crimes.
The attack, one of the worst on aid workers in South Sudan’ s ci vil w ar, took place on July 11, 2016 as President Salva Kiir’s troops won a threeday battle in Juba over opposition forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
Witnesses told Reuters at the time that armed men at tacked the Terrain Hotel in the capit al J uba f or se veral hours.
Victims phoned UN peac ekeepers stationed a mile away and begged for help, but none came, the witne sses said.
The military head of the UN peacekeeping mission was fired and the political head resigned over the incident.
UN investigators and right s group have frequently accused both the army and rebels of murder, torture and rape since the civil war began in 2013, and say the crimes almost always go unpunished.
Describing the incident, the manager of the T errain Hotel, Mike Woodward, told the court that “between 50 to 100” soldiers arrived in the hotel in the afternoon of July 11 and began looting an hour lat er.
“Five women working with humanitarian organisations were then raped. John G atluak w as shot at 6 .15 pm,” Woodward said.
Peter Malual, the def endants’ lawyer, dismissed the charges, saying evidence provided by Woodward was not sufficient to prove the alle gations.
“What I kno w the ar ea was under operation at the time and rebels were controlling the ar ea,” Malual said.
Court officials said the trial w ould resume on J une 6. — R euters.